The government lashed out Monday at Haiti’s interim prime minister, denying allegations that South African President Thabo Mbeki has allowed Haiti’s ousted president to coordinate violence in the Caribbean country from his refuge here.
Calling the accusations baseless, Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad said South Africa’s government “rejects with contempt the attack on the integrity of President Mbeki, and dismisses the insinuation its territory is being used as a springboard by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to destabilize Haiti through violent means.
“South Africa, and indeed President Mbeki, cannot be used as a scapegoat for failure by the interim Haitian authorities to bring about peace and stability to Haiti,” Pahad said, according to a statement given to The Associated Press.
Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told reporters Sunday that Mbeki was “taking a big risk” in sheltering Aristide, who Latortue said “is the symbol of violence. He believes in that.
“No respectable president would allow a person in his territory to organize violence in another country,” Latortue said. “Mr. Mbeki is not respecting international law.”
At the time, 95 Chinese riot police were arriving in Haiti to join a U.N. peacekeeping force struggling to keep order in the impoverished Caribbean nation. At least 55 people have died since Sept. 30, when Aristide loyalists took to the streets demanding his return to office.
Aristide fled Haiti on Feb. 29 as rebels approached the capital of Port-au-Prince. South Africa offered him temporary asylum, and he arrived May 31. He currently lives in Pretoria but has not applied for permanent asylum in the country.
The South African government recognizes Aristide as the legitimate leader of Haiti and treats him as a guest of the state. He and his wife, Mildred, were appointed honorary research fellows at the University of South Africa last week.
Pahad said South Africa had agreed to host Aristide as “a visitor of the government, pending the resolution of the political situation in Haiti.”
Only the people of Haiti and their representatives, assisted by the Caribbean Community, can develop a long-term solution to their current political and economic problems, he said.
Two South African opposition groups — the Democratic Alliance and the smaller African Christian Democratic Party — have called for an investigation into Latortue’s allegations.
“If (Mbeki) can show that there is no substance to Mr. Latortue’s allegations, then our government should respond to what would amount to a slur against the president,” Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said in a statement.
If there is evidence Aristide has incited violence in Haiti from South Africa, then his guest status should be revoked and Mbeki “should apologize to the U.N. and to its peacekeeping forces,” Leon said.