Haitians Ponder Meaning of Duvalier’s Surprise Return

For some, the return of former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is a living nightmare. For others, it is exactly what Haiti needs to improve.

“I don’t have any problem with him,” said Reginal Cesar, a Montgomery County resident who moved from Haiti to the United States in 2005. “Right now Haiti needs reconciliation, including Duvalier, Aristide, whoever is Haitian.”

After 25 years in exile in France, Duvalier returned to Haiti on Jan. 16, shocking the entire nation and its Diaspora. On Monday, the Haitian government said it issued a passport to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide enabling him to return to Haiti, according to AFP.

Since Baby Doc’s return, victims of the Duvalier-era have resurfaced and demanded the prosecution of the dictator who inherited the presidency at age 19 after the death of his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. The self-proclaimed “President-for-Life,” ruled from 1971 until he was ousted in 1986.

On Jan. 21, Duvalier made his first public statement in which he apologized to those who suffered under his presidency.

“The desire to participate alongside you in working together for national reconstruction far outweighs any pressure which could be brought to bear on me,” Duvalier said.

“It is a small price to pay. For me, the main thing is to be with you.”

Many concerns were raised about whether Duvalier should have been allowed back to Haiti.

“Those of us who care about human rights, human dignity and justice need to pressure the next government to begin a process to allow people to bring forth complaints against former presidents and give a chance to defend himself,” said Figaro Joseph, a Ward 2 resident referring to Duvalier.

“Now it’s reasonable to argue that Aristide, Cedras and others who have been exiled should be give a chance to return,” added Joseph, referring to Raoul Cedras, a former military leader who ruled Haiti in the early ’90s.

According to AFP, a judge speaking on condition of anonymity said: “A flight ban has been issued against Duvalier. He is barred from leaving the country because there is a court order against him.”