Can life for Haitians, most still living amid the rubble, debris and skeletons of the January earthquake, become any more nightmarish? It appears that it can, as the devastated country may soon fall into the hands of former Fugees singer and pop star Wyclef Jean- whose first policy will be to name Haiti’s towns after food stuffs.
The Haitian-born musician has cast his bid for the presidency in the country’s first elections following the earthquake, due 28 November. Jean has played a major role in delivering emergency aid to Haiti and has garnered huge popularity in his native home for his musical success.
But the prospect of the US-based rapper – who left Haiti at age 9 and has no prior political experience – guiding this broken country out of the ashes is little more than farcical. Is fame and money enough to secure a free ticket to Haiti’s crumbling presidential palace? The idea is offensive to the millions of suffering Haitians who have surely reached their height of tolerance for the cruel absurdities that fate has thrown at them.
Though you can’t fault Wyclef Jean for caring at least – a characteristic not exactly shared by another celebrity who made a strange appearance in the politics pages of the news this week for her part in the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
US supermodel Naomi Campbell told the judge, as she testified against Taylor who allegedly gave her blood diamonds as a gift, that giving witness at the international war crimes tribunal was “a big inconvenience”.
But while Campbell begrudgingly entered the political sphere, many more celebrities are finding a new outlet for their creative souls that even beats yoga. Musicians like the Pixies and Elvis Costello have protested the Gaza flotilla incident by refusing to play in Israel, Oliver Stone has stuck it to the US with his new film, South of the Border, displaying his Stone-esque (mis)understanding of Latin American history and politics, and Madonna has continually made headlines through her attempts to raid African countries of their offspring.
Jean will not be the first celeb to dabble in politics; Venezuelan beauty queen Irene Saez competed against Hugo Chavez in the 1998 presidential race. And while not qualified for the US presidency due to his Austrian background, action film hero Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor of California in 2003.
It has still not been determined whether Jean will be able to run for the presidency under the rules of the constitution, but if the pop star is given a shot at the race, it will be up to Haitians to determine whether a hip hop president is what the country needs. Haiti has fewer options than wealthier countries, and there is no doubt that it’s low GDP makes it easier for anyone with a limo and the right passport to run in the polls.
But it is up to the Haitian people to cut through the celebrity culture and misplaced idolisation, which is responsible for bringing a new breed of famous, wealthy and unqualified people into the political arena.