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Former Haitian President  Says Peace is Possible if Aristide Steps Down - 2004-02-26

In the 1988 presidential elections university professor Leslie Manigat was elected the new Haitian president. Manigat's presidency was quickly overthrown, however, by Lt. Gen. Namphy, who also abolished the National Assembly and declared himself "military president." Mr. Manigat is now an opposition leader in Haiti and joined NewsLine host David Borgida, to speak about the ongoing situation in Haiti.

Borgida: Leslie Manigat has been here in Washington, discussing the situation inside Haiti with members of Congress. Thanks so much for joining us on NewsLine today, Mr. Manigat. Tell us what you told the members of the U.S. Congress today as it relates to the current situation in Haiti.

Manigat: We're trying to persuade them that there is a solution to the Haitian problems, which avoid to go to military intervention in Haitian affairs. It is possible to have a peaceful change in the country, with the fact that we think that Aristide will step down. For the moment, he does not want to and he is sticking to power. I understand that. It is the way he sees the situation in his own evaluation.

But I am certain that if you combine, it is combining right now, if you combine the consolidation and mobilization forces in the country, where every sector of the country, every space of the country, is now devoted to the necessity, confession and conviction, determination, that change must come with the departure of Aristide that we want.

Second, you have these last weeks a movement, utilizing our own way to get rid of Aristide, and they are now in control of a substantial part of the territory, maybe one third or a half of the territory. It is not the way we started it when we started it two years and two months ago, but we must be realistic about realities. Some people don't accept our nonviolent way. So they think that they must go to the traditional way of Haiti, trying to get rid of a bad government with some force, some material force. So they are there undeterred. You have the international people. That's what we are saying. These international milieu, they must realize, and they know, they know, that unfortunately we have a bad government.

Borgida: Mr. Manigat, let me ask you, what gives you a sense of confidence that, even though Mr. Aristide is saying now that he does not want to leave, that he will eventually, under the right set of circumstances?

Manigat: First human nature. He is a human being. I know that he is a special type of human being, but he is a human being. Second, he still is there. Which, in Haiti, when a government does not want to step down, unfortunately for it and unfortunately for the country, the country rebels, undeterred. We have the precedence of Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, where we had the same situation.

Borgida: So international pressure, you believe, will help convince him to leave?

Manigat: Thank you very much, because that is the problem. That's what I am saying now since I'm here. We need sympathetic support from the international milieu, so that what we are doing, and we are almost at the verge of succeeding through the mobilization measures in process, if we have a little push from the international milieu, because they know that Aristide is not good, they know that the solution is not Aristide, in that case, we will reach the result more quickly.

Borgida: So you're asking for some pressure and patience from the international community?

Mangiat: Exactly.

Borgida: And finally, let me ask you this. I understand that your name has been mentioned as a possible leader or a part of a transitional government. Would you accept that kind of a role? Would you welcome it? And what do you know about that that you could tell us about?

Manigat: Well, that's true that this has been said in the country and outside the country, within the Haitian milieu, that I could be the man to chair what we call the durable transition for Haiti. What I'm saying to that is very, very simple. I've been president of this country. I went through the process and I had, so far, a position which is well known. I am a responsible patriot, but I have no ambition to go back to power.

Borgida: Is that a yes or is that a no?

Manigat: No, it is my answer. If I have to consider the ossibility to go back to power, it's under conditions.

Borgida: What would those conditions be?

Manigat: And I have told my fellow citizens what are the conditions for me.

Borgida: What are they?

Manigat: Well, they are many. They are many. First, a set of criteria to organize a team to save the country, competence, honesty, probity, the disposition to work for the public good, the emphasis on the social problems to be solved by priority and equality in Haiti, and openness to the world at the conditions so that this world understands our problems.

Borgida: Well, we look forward to seeing you on the international scene perhaps once again.

Manigat: But really that's only the first set of conditions.

Borgida: Well, I'm sure there are more. Thank you, Leslie Manigat. We appreciate your time.

Manigat: It was my pleasure, indeed. And we'll see you again for further developments of our positions.