The Central African Republic, where Jean-Bertrand Aristide sits in limbo, tells the exiled Haitian leader to be on his best behavior and act responsibly.
BY MICHAEL A.W. OTTEY
The Central African Republic on Wednesday had strong words for former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, painting the exiled leader as an ungrateful guest who likely would be dead were it not for its hospitality and the kindness of its allies.
''Ex-president Aristide wants to stay in Central Africa for awhile, and we are a country that has friends who helped him get out of Haiti to get here,'' government spokesman Parfait M'bay told the Agence-France Presse in Bangui, the capital.
''He must be grateful to these countries. Because if he had not asked the United States and France to help him, president Aristide would be dead by now,'' he added.
M'bay was only one of the Central African Republic officials who criticized Aristide as if he were a spoiled child.
''We received orders from the highest state authorities to pass a message to president Aristide, that the Central African Republic has taken him in because of its legendary hospitality and that he must respect the rules of that hospitality,'' Foreign Minister Charles Herve Wenezoui said. ``We believe that president Aristide, who gave us a good impression when he arrived, should be on his best behavior.''
The harsh words from a nation that is not a bastion of democracy -- the current government came to power in a military coup last year -- shows how far Aristide has fallen in the arena of international politics.
For instance, Wenezoui said Aristide would have access to a telephone, ''but not to undermine the interests of the Haitian people, nor to call into question the goodwill of the Central African Republic's friends, who want to help restore peace in Haiti,'' AFP reported.
In other words, he can make calls but not to criticize the United States -- which he has accused of ''kidnapping'' him -- or France.
There's been talk of South Africa as a possible asylum nation, but President Thabo Mbeki, who is a friend of Aristide, faces strong opposition.
While Mbeki's ruling African National Congress is willing to entertain asylum for Aristide, political opponents are strongly against it, citing Aristide's failings in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Ira Kurzban, the Miami-based attorney for the Haiti government, said he will send a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan demanding that Aristide be allowed to leave Bangui and go to another country.
Kurzban also said that Aristide is not free to leave Bangui, as French
Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has asserted. ''He's not free to
come and go because he's got armed soldiers telling him that he can't leave,''