Dear Wyclef: Please Don’t Run!

In an open letter to the hip-hop icon, a fellow Haitian-American explains why it’s a bad idea for him to try to become president of Haiti.

By “new” I mean different — radically different. Not the Haiti of inept, corrupt and unqualified leadership. Not the Haiti of starving masses and well-fed, indifferent elites. Not the Haiti that housed its people in flimsy shacks turned post-earthquake tombs. Not the Haiti of coups and kidnappings; stolen elections and political killings; and venal, contemptible politicians.

Now, more than ever, Haiti needs a highly educated and experienced technocrat who understands the intricacies of governing and diplomacy. Someone who can wage a successful civic-education campaign and get different sectors of civil society all working on the same page and tamp down the country’s cyclical social unrest. Someone who knows how to get things done and knows how to build schools, hospitals and neighborhoods, as well as sewer systems, electric grids and roads. Someone who can feed the people and give them jobs. Someone schooled in international affairs and who will be respected by the international community. Someone who can rebuild Haiti and ultimately restore its dignity.

Frankly, Wyclef, that someone is not you.

You’re just not qualified. You’re fame and hype, but Haiti needs sure and steady. You have an entourage of “yes” men, but Haiti needs an army of yeomen. You’re a uniquely talented music man, but Haiti desperately needs a credible statesman. And then there are your messy financial problems and the questionable accounting practices at your charitable foundation. It’s too complicated to get into here, but it doesn’t look good and will be a distraction throughout the campaign. Had you not built up so much goodwill over the years, your finances — both personal and professional — would have totally undermined your standing.

Your presence in the presidential campaign will not only diminish your brand, both at home and abroad, but will trivialize what should be a serious election focused on the hard work ahead.


I’m not questioning your sincerity or dismissing your art. After all, you are the people’s poet. But poets are not presidents, they’re poets — and they have their place.

Wyclef, we feel you. We really do. We share your frustration with the lack of progress on the ground. We know you want better for Haiti. We do too.

But there are better people for the job. That’s not to say you can’t still keep doing your part. Your mic is a powerful tool; keep using it to inspire and to agitate.

But please, Wyclef, let someone else take the lead.

Marjorie Valbrun is a Haitian-American journalist.

This article was taken from the Root