[quote]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,'" up
on 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 rampa
ge, 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 isla
nd 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. [/quote]
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