News from Haiti

Sunday, February 12, 2006

South Africa's Tutu preaches peace, reconciliation in volatile Haiti

Port-au-Prince, February 12, 2006. Former South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu Sunday preached his message of reconciliation in volatile Haiti, where voters awaited the outcome of presidential elections.

"The people of Haiti say yes to peace ... no to revenge," he said in a sermon at the Sainte Trinite episcopal cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince.

"Long live peace," Tutu told the worshippers, who included government officials, foreign diplomats and international electoral observers.

"You have shown the world you are not a violent people," he said with reference to Tuesday's presidential and legislative voting, which was largely free of electoral or political violence.

Tutu's four-day visit coincided with the nervous wait for the outcome of the February 7 presidential election many hope will set Haiti on a democratic track and end the turmoil that has plagued the impoverished Caribbean nation.

With three-fourths of the ballots counted, Rene Preval, 63, a champion of the poor, had a massive lead over his rivals, but was just under one point short of the 50 percent he needs to win outright and avoid a second round.

Officials appealed for calm amid worries that Preval's hardcore supporters in the capital's dirt-poor slum may be incensed if the front runner is not declared triumphant in the first round.

Sunday's ecumenical service marked the inauguration of Haiti's "National Day of Peace and Tolerance".

Tutu met interim president Boniface Alexandre Saturday, and was scheduled to hold talks with other Haitian leaders during his visit. He leaves Haiti on Tuesday.

The former archbishop of Cape Town was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent struggle against apartheid in his native South Africa.