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17619: Lemieux: News24.com (South Africa) (fwd)

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

Haiti trip a costly 'fiasco'
02/01/2004 14:15  - (SA)

Cape Town - The "fiasco" of President Thabo Mbeki's visit
to attend Haiti's bicentenary celebrations underlines yet
again that the president failed to take sensible advice,
the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.

"Because of his over-emotional response to Haiti's two
hundredth anniversary of getting rid of the French,
President Mbeki, alone among African or world leaders,
insisted on participating in the celebration," DA acting
leader Douglas Gibson said in a statement.

"To top it all, the visit ended with South African security
personnel being involved in an exchange of fire with
apparent protestors," he said.

"Why does President Mbeki diminish his own personal
standing and prestige by seeking out and associating
himself with people like (Haitian President Jean-Bertrand)

Aristide was accused of gross human rights violations and
undemocratic actions, and there were even suggestions of
complicity in drug smuggling and other criminal activities.

The message which Mbeki's conduct sent out was that he
would associate with anyone in power instead of considering
the people of the country, who might have a totally
negative view of South Africa and Mbeki because of the seal
of approval which his presence carried.

Millions of rands

"The Haitian fiasco cost many millions of rands. In
addition to the R10m donated for the celebration to
President Aristide's government, 250 Naval personnel, the
cost of sailing the SAS Drakensberg for weeks in foreign
waters, the cost of 51 police officers, the police
helicopter and 18 national intelligence agents adds to the
feeling that President Mbeki has started 2004 with a gross
error of judgment.

"Either the South African secret service failed to inform
and advise the president properly about the problematic
nature of a Haiti visit or else he chose to ignore that
advice," Gibson said.

It was reported earlier that a South African helicopter
belonging to Mbeki's advance protection team had come under
fire in the Caribbean island state, prompting Mbeki to
cancel a scheduled visit to the northwestern city of

Police said the helicopter came under fire on Thursday in
Haiti while doing an advance sweep before a scheduled visit
to a soup ceremony in Gonaives, celebrating the country's

The helicopter turned back and the advance team on the
ground were withdrawn, Senior Superintendent Selby Bokaba

Mbeki is scheduled to return to South Africa on Saturday.

In a separate statement, National Action co-leader Cassie
Aucamp said the "unrest" in Haiti and the shooting incident
was a great embarrassment for South Africa.

With his unwanted visit, and the accompanying violence,
Mbeki had involved South Africa unasked in the 12-year-old
armed struggle between Aristide and the rebel forces.

South Africa now found itself unavoidably on the side of

The irony was that Aristide was being accused of serious
human rights violations, and democracy in Haiti left much
to be desired, Aucamp said.

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