CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Bangui grants Aristide asylum 'on humanitarian grounds'[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
BANGUI, 2 March (IRIN) - The Central African Republic (CAR) has granted former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide asylum at the request of Gabonese President Omar Bongo and for humanitarian reasons, a government minister said on Monday.
"When a man in need knocks at your door, you do not consider his colour, his race or his rank, you welcome him and offer him the little you have," Parfait Mbay, Communications Minister, said in a statement read on state-owned Radio Centrafrique.
He added, "At the request of his counterpart and dean of central African heads of state Gabonese President Omar Bongo, the president of the republic [Francois Bozize] accepted to receive the former president of the first black republic in the world, Jean Bertrand Aristide."
By receiving Aristide, the CAR had confirmed its reputation as a land of asylum for people in difficulties, Mbay said.
Mbay, four other ministers and the CAR army chief of staff, Gen Antoine Gambi, received Aristide when he arrived on Monday at the Bangui-Mpoko Airport.
Mbay said that Bozize had consulted Vice-President Abel Goumba, Prime Minister Celestin Gaombalet and the chairman of the National Transitional Council, the country's law advisory body, Nicolas Tiangaye, before allowing Aristide into the country.
"It is with sincere gratitude that we address the Central African Republic's authorities for receiving us this morning," the radio quoted Aristide as saying on his arrival in the capital, Bangui.
Referring to and paraphrasing Toussaint Louverture, the historical Haitian hero who was tortured and killed by French colonisers 200 years ago, Aristide said: "Today, in the shadow of Toussaint Louverture I declare: by overthrowing me, they have cut down the tree of peace but this tree will grow up again because its roots are Louverturian."
The CAR government's decision to welcome Aristide is perceived as an attempt to draw the attention of the international community to its own situation. The country is currently in a transitional period since the 15 March 2003 coup that brought Bozize to power. Since then, the authorities have been seeking international recognition. Now, with Aristide in exile in Bangui, the task may likely be easier.
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004