Wyclef Jean voiced his support for Haitian rebels on Wednesday, calling on embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down and telling his fans in Haiti to "keep their head up" as the country braces itself for possible civil war.
"The country's in an uproar, it's not safe. But for the safety of the country and to stop the violence, it has to be a situation where he steps down," Jean, who was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, told MTV News. "If the president steps down, there will be some form of negotiation with the opposition force."
"I don't consider those people rebels," Wyclef said. "It's people standing up for their rights. It's not like these people just appeared out of nowhere and said, 'Let's cause some trouble.' I think it's just built up frustration, anger, hunger, depression."
On Wednesday morning (February 25), the heavily armed opposition, led by members of Haiti's now-disbanded army, approached the capital of Port-au-Prince after laying siege to the country's second largest city, Cap-Hatien, on Thursday. They demanded that President Aristide step down, called his government corrupt and demanded new elections. Fifty-five U.S. Marines were sent to Haiti to protect the U.S. Embassy there on Monday.
Rebels now have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to respond to an international proposal aimed at appeasing both the uprising and the U.S.-backed Aristide government. President Bush has told the Coast Guard to maintain "a robust presence" against any Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. It is a stance with which Wyclef disagrees.
"They're coming because they can't work, they can't feed their children and they're looking for a better life," he said.
Jean praised Al Sharpton's decision to visit the country on Tuesday ("I'm a supporter and I know he's gonna do the right thing") and encouraged people who wanted to understand the current situation in Haiti to see a new documentary by Jonathan Demme called "The Agronomist," which Jean scored.
"It's about an MC/DJ named Jean Dominique who had a radio show and spoke out for the people," Wyclef explained. "He was murdered. The movie will definitely provide enlightenment about what's going on right now."
Wyclef also asked his fans to understand that the current uprising is not simply senseless violence. "What I want people to be clear about is it's not just people chopping up people for no reason. It's on the level of a civil war. People want the president that is currently the state to step down. And him stepping down will let the people make any kind of negotiation to come up with some form of peace."