Wyclef Jean the Haitian-born rap star who became one of the world's most popular hip-hop artists, has told the Guardian that he will run for president of Haiti in the country's November elections.
Freddie Mercury feat Wyclef Jean
Another One Bites the Dust
The singer-songwriter's declaration ends weeks of speculation after Jean began exploring the possibility of standing. For the past five years he has been steadily increasing his engagement with Haiti through his charity, Yéle Haiti, having left the country to come to the US when he was nine years old.
In an interview at his recording studios in New Jersey where he is putting the finishing touches to his latest album, The Haitian Experience, Jean said his decision to run was informed by his experiences after the 12 January earthquake. About 230,000 people died in the disaster, and Jean was involved in rescue missions amid the rubble.
He said: "I just feel singing is not enough. I'm being drafted. Every year I probably do 200 shows and I have a very comfortable life. But people are saying to me: 'Clef, if you don't put yourself on the ground, in 10 years' time you will look at it and say you could have.'"
Jean plans to launch his electoral campaign in Haiti next Thursday. He has already assembled a team of political advisers and is fine-tuning his manifesto, which will focus on what he calls his "four policy pillars" – education, job creation, agriculture and security.
By formally entering the race, Jean throws himself into a wide-open competition with numerous candidates, including his own uncle, Raymond Joseph, who serves as Haiti's ambassador to Washington. Jean will have the disadvantage of having lived largely outside Haiti for the past 29 years, but the huge advantage of being Haiti's most famous son.
The rapper must now convince the electoral board in Haiti that he is eligible to stand for president. Under criteria introduced recently, any candidate must have lived in the country for five consecutive years before an election.
Jean has put a team of lawyers onto the issue, arguing through them that as a roving ambassador for Haiti with a home in Port-au-Prince he fully qualifies. "The word in Haiti now is that the opposition want me out so bad that every day they add new criteria. I think the new one is that I have to be 6ft 5in," the singer said.
There will also be issues of security surrounding his candidacy within the volatile and still devastated country. In the lyrics of one of his songs, written long before he conceived a real presidential run, he imagined standing for president of the United States:
"If I was president,
I'd get elected on Friday,
Assassinated on Saturday,
And buried on Sunday,
I'd be back at work on Monday."
"Security is always an issue in Haiti," Jean said. He added that he had already been the subject of a foiled assassination plot in his native country.