Former president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has announced that he returned to Haiti after 25 years in exile in France to help in the reconstruction of the country, despite the troubles that awaited him here.
Duvalier, who returned to Haiti four days after the one year anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, issued his first public statement last Friday after he was slapped with corruption charges that allegedly took place during his 15-year rule.
“When I made the decision to come back to Haiti to commemorate this sad anniversary with you, in our country, I was ready for any kind of persecution,” said Duvalier. “But I believe that the desire to participate by your side in this collaboration for the national reconstruction far outweighs any harassment I could face.”
Duvalier is also accused of several human rights abuses. During his rule from 1971 to 1986, he allegedly approved the use of systematic torture, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detentions.
Although he did not apologize directly, Duvalier acknowledged that people had suffered under his rule.
He offered his “profound sadness toward my countrymen who consider themselves, rightly, to have been victims of my government”.
Furthermore, Duvalier said he envisioned a day when “all Haiti’s children, men and women, old and young, rich and poor, from the interior and from the Diaspora, can march hand in hand without exclusion to participate together in Haiti’s rebirth”.
Although Duvalier’s statement did not refer to several million dollars he is alleged to have stolen from government coffers, an American attorney said the former president wants to access funds frozen in a Swiss bank account to help in the reconstruction process.
“What he would like to do with the funds in Switzerland is to contribute that to the rebuilding of the country and that is one of the reasons why he came back,” said attorney Ed Marger.
Marger was among a team of consultants who fielded questions after Duvalier made his statement and left. The others included former United States congressman and presidential candidate Bob Barr, American lawyer Mike Puglise and Haitian lawyer Reynold Georges.
Duvalier’s return comes at a time when the country is in the midst of political uncertainty, with the results of presidential elections still unresolved.
An Organization of American States (OAS) expert mission has submitted a report challenging the results of the first round, announced by Haiti’s provisional electoral council (CEP), which put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the candidate of the ruling party, Jude Celestin, in the runoff. An OAS expert mission pointed to several flaws and recommended that Celestin be dropped and Michel Martelly – who finished third – be allowed to run against Manigat.
The CEP has expressed concerns about the OAS report and said it is not bound by it.
The run-off had been scheduled to take place since January 16, but with no final results from the first round, it was postponed and no new date set.