He spoke in Swahili, in Zulu, in Afrikaans and in Tswana. He is extremely excited about returning home.
We had a private meeting with the president and his family this afternoon and the delegation that's accompanying him: Danny Glover, the actor and activist; James Early, of the Smithsonian Institution, formerly chair of the Institute for Policy Studies; and K.K. Kean, the filmmaker who has made a number of films about Haiti. It is--and the family, of course, of the Aristides. He did not want to make any political statements there. He wanted the South African government to speak before he would speak. And, he simply said that he is thrilled to be going home. He looks forward to being --- these are his words, not mine---- "a resident of Haiti, not the president" at this point, to really pursuing issues of health and education in Haiti.
Now we're in a holding area, about to get on to the plane that will take us---- we don't know exactly the itinerary at this moment--but will take us to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we expect to arrive sometime around noon on Friday. This is the culmination of years of effort. I mean, ever since that fateful day on February 29, 2004---- the second of two U.S.-backed coups against President Aristide. The first was in 1991, when he was ousted for three years. The second when the number two man in the U.S. embassy came to the home of the Aristides in Tabar in Haiti and they were bundled onto a jet with security and military and they were sent off to the Central American Republic. The U.S. government insisted that the Aristides went of their own free will. And, it's something they've insisted to this day because, in the last days, the U.S. government has issued warnings to the State Department that the Aristides should not come back to Haiti. That, he left of his own free will in 2004.
We don't know the itinerary at this point, we just know that we expect to land in Port-au-Prince, Haiti about noon on Friday. It's about 11 o'clock on Thursday here in South Africa. It promises to be a long nights journey into a new day. It's very interesting to watch President Aristide right now; I'm watching him speak to a South African government official right now who is wishing him well, saying that he is a part of the South African family, not just a friend. And, it's interesting because the U.S. government has put so much pressure on the South African government not to return the Aristides to Haiti. Actually, news came out earlier this week that President Obama personally called President Zuma of South Africa to implore him not to provide this jet for the Aristides to return home. But, the South African government responded in a public way and said that they would not be pressured by anyone. So, tonight, the Aristides return home to Haiti. I'm Amy Goodman for Democracy Now! in Johannesburg, South Africa. We're about to board the plane and hope to arrive in Haiti in Friday about noon.