As many of you know, this past summer I had the great pleasure of exploring the opportunity to serve my homeland as a presidential candidate. Even though I was declared ineligible to run, my hopes for the recovery and healing of my troubled homeland still shine bright. But at this moment, as I wait for my flight to Johannesburg, my fears for the people of Haiti are winning out over my optimism. I am deeply saddened to read all the troubles that this election, with its irregularities and probable fraud, is bringing down on my brothers and sisters in Haiti, especially considering all the hardships so many there have already faced -- still living in tents since the earthquake almost one year ago, and too many dead from the outbreak of cholera in the past weeks.
Many who care about Haiti and follow the situation there are afraid the events around this election are setting the country on a path that will ultimately lead to civil war -- the worst possible outcome. With all they have endured, the Haitian people have been pushed to the brink by this election, and we need the world to keep watch on the proceedings now with a wary eye. We don't want the situation to devolve even further there, but there's every chance it will. No one received more than 50 percent of the votes; that's a fact no one's disputing. So, in this case, the top two vote-getters will be entered in a run-off election. The "official" results found that former first lady Mirlande Manigat received the greatest number of votes (which is being largely accepted), and -- now here's where it gets tricky -- that President Rene Préval's favored successor, Jude Célestin, was second.
The U.S. Embassy has expressed doubts about the published results. The National Election Observation Council believes that Michel Martelly earned more votes than Célestin. In response to these contested results, hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of citizens have taken to the streets, first Martelly supporters and then those who claim to be Célestin backers. So far, five have died, and the headquarters of the INITE party have been set on fire. As with most every election that has taken place in Haiti in my lifetime, this one has been plagued with doubt and rumors. Haiti is a country where rumors prevail -- but sometimes rumor proves to be fact. As human beings, we should call for peace. The question is, how are we going to get peace in Haiti, considering the circumstances? And the people's anger is understandable -- after all they've endured, voting is the one thing they can't afford to lose.
On Election Day, I voted myself -- after great difficulty. And I know other Haitian citizens who weren't able to vote because they couldn't find their name on the lists of registered voters -- even though these people were registered residents of the country. The people need to be able to trust their government, but the Haitian government has proven time and again that it hasn't earned that trust. We need to show the world that Haiti is ready to stand up for itself and that the ruling bodies are working in the best interests of the populace. This is a crucial crossroads for Haiti, and I worry that the officials in place don't have the will of the people as their first priority.
What's it going to take to set Haiti on the right path? At the very least, a sit-down between all the parties and maybe an international observer might help calm the anger that has -- rightly - -flared up. Hopefully, the Haitian people will find a way to express their outrage about the machinations of its government without resorting to the violence that has already injured many and threatens to tear the nation apart. I pray for my country now, at yet another low point; I pray that God will deliver Haiti through this new disaster. I pray that everyone, on all fronts, will find the wisdom to choose peace and will understand that the phrase "L'union fait la force" ("there is strength in unity") aren't just empty words, but are truly words to live by.