[News] Haiti unrest reminded me of apartheid - Tutu
News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Feb 17 14:18:12 EST 2006
From: zili danto <erzilidanto at yahoo.com>
Haiti unrest reminded me of apartheid - Tutu
February 17 2006 at 05:50AM
By Dominique Herman
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described
how "apprehensive" he was as he faced down an
angry crowd of over 5 000 Haitian demonstrators,
saying it reminded him of "the bad old days of apartheid".
Tutu was airlifted from Haiti by military pilots
from the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night - an
evacuation he described as "uneventful".
And he revealed on Thursday that the United
Nations had sent a helicopter to evacuate him on
Monday after rumours swept the Haitian capital of
Port-au-Prince that he had suffered a heart attack.
"It was insane because I was as hale and hearty
as you can be at 74," Tutu said from a seminary
in Virginia, in the United States.
"I said, 'No, I'm not going away,'" upon being offered a ride out of Haiti.
Instead he stood on the balcony of the luxury
Montana hotel and spoke to the crowd, and,
according to international reports, his address visibly calmed the protesters.
"It resembled some of the times back in the bad
old days but one was able to address them," he said.
The only difficulties were that he did not speak
French and he did not have a loud hailer to make himself heard.
"You are apprehensive," he said, about the
experience of confronting thousands of angry
protesters, but he said many people were praying
and "God looks after those doing good work".
"What was fantastic, what I can't get over, was
that with over 5 000 people - and some stormed
the hotel looking for members of the electoral
commission - they didn't break or steal a single article.
"The people are good. They were angry and they
could have gone on the rampage, but they left peacefully."
He said he sympathised with their anger as they
had been waiting a long time for the election results.
"I'm feeling very sad just now that leaders can
let their people be done by so badly," he said.
Protests in support of presidential candidate
René Préval paralysed the city of Port-au-Prince
on Tuesday. Angered by a slow vote count and
indications that Préval had not gained enough
votes for an outright win, his supporters took to the streets.
The mass unrest caused the cancellation of all
commercial flights, which is why Tutu had to be
airlifted out - an experience he described as "totally uneventful".
Blocking roads with car wrecks, rocks and flaming
tires, Préval's supporters had stormed the gates
of the Montana hotel where Tutu was staying.
Tutu remarked on the differences between the two
countries that exist "cheek by jowl" on the
island of Hispaniola - on Haiti's poverty and
squalor and the prosperity of the Dominican Republic.
Tutu said he spoke to Préval on the phone and was
very impressed that despite his overwhelming
support in Haiti and in the international
community, he was willing to go though with the
process of the commission to look at the results.
"He could have dug his heels in," said Tutu.
Préval was declared the country's next president
on Thursday after a deal was reached following
charges of vote fraud. The deal gives Préval 50.9
percent of the vote and averts a run-off, which was scheduled for March.
Tutu arrived in Haiti on Saturday to urge
reconciliation between the country's tiny elite
and its mass of marginalised poor.
He said the Dominican Republic's President Leonel
Fernandez had initially requested a meeting with
him, but he had replied that he could not fit it in on this trip.
"But God has his own plans," Tutu said. Upon his
arrival at 9pm on Tuesday after an
hour-and-a-half flight, he did have an audience with Fernandez.
"He's a very impressive and good person," he said.
From there he flew to Miami and on to
Washington. Tutu will return to South Africa on March 1.
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