Wyclef Jean Announces Run for Haiti President

Musician lays out five-point plan for revitalizing his earthquake-ravaged homeland

August 6, 2010 9:28 AM ET

Wyclef Jean made his bid for the Haitian presidency official yesterday, traveling to his homeland's capital city Port-au-Prince to submit the necessary paperwork. "This is not even Wyclef saying, 'I want to be president of Haiti,' " Jean told CNN. "I feel like I'm being drafted by the population right now to give them a different face, a different voice."

Wyclef also revealed his five-point plan for revitalizing the earthquake-ravaged nation, by focusing on agriculture, job creation, security, health care and especially education. "Haiti will not be a part of the 21st century if Haiti can not read or write," Jean said, adding that he hoped fellow Haiti-born, U.S.-educated expatriates will return to their native country to assist in his efforts. "[Wyclef] saw they need much more help than he could provide himself," Wyclef's brother and spokesman Sam Jean told Rolling Stone. "If he got involved, there's a opportunity to really affect the lives of the youth in Haiti. It's one thing to say, 'Get involved.' It's another thing to actually do it." As Rolling Stone reported earlier this week, despite a strict rule that dictates that Haiti presidential candidates live five consecutive years on the island nation, Wyclef would likely be able to sidestep the rule thanks to his honorary title of ambassador at large.

Due to Wyclef's lack of political experience and allegations that he misused funds from his Yéle Haiti foundation (he denied any wrongdoing), the musician will have to hurdle some obstacles during his candidacy. Actor Sean Penn, who has been living in Port-au-Prince for several months to provide help to displaced Haitians, spoke critically of Jean's decision yesterday. "What the Haitian people need now is a leader who is genuinely willing to sacrifice," Penn told CNN. "I haven't seen or heard anything of him in these last six months that I've been in Haiti. I think he's an important voice. I hope he doesn't sacrifice that voice by taking the eye off the very devastating realities on the ground."

If elected, Jean, who stepped down from his role as Yéle Haiti chairman earlier this week in anticipation of his presidential bid, would be placed in charge of the billions of dollars in international aid Haiti has received since the devastating January 12th earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people. The former Fugee spoke optimistically about his run and Haiti's future after his announcement yesterday. "There's a crowd behind me right now with so much excitement because they feel hope is on the way," Jean said. A few hours later he added on Twitter, "Tonight starts a New Chapter in my Life, Goodnight from Haiti."

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