Rebels, who had been threatening to attack Port-au-Prince if Aristide did not step down, entered the capital city after the former leader left. They were greeted with throngs of cheering and dancing residents, many shouting “Good job” and “Guy Philippe,” the name of the main rebel leader. Others watched indifferently, their arms folded, according to the Associated Press.
Aristide left under pressure from the United States and France, political opposition groups and the armed insurgents, who initiated more than three weeks of violent uprisings in the Caribbean country. Clashes between the insurgents and militant Aristide supporters left an estimated 100 people dead.
The former president arrived Monday in the Central African Republic for “a few days,” according to state radio. He is expected to then travel to South Africa.
Aristide said in a short radio broadcast that those who overthrew him had “cut down the tree of peace,” but “it will grow again,” the AP reported.
Under the Haitian constitution, the interim head of the country of 8 million is the Supreme Court chief justice, Boniface Alexandre. He was sworn in Sunday afternoon and will remain in power until elections in 2005.
Also Sunday, the first of several hundred U.S. Marines flew to Port-au-Prince to prevent armed insurgents from making a grab for power, according to Reuters.
Philippe said he planned to make preparations for Alexandre to assume office. “We’re going to make sure the palace is clean for the president to come … that there is no threat there,” he told the AP.
But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he did not want some of the leaders of the rebels to take any role in a new government.
“Some of these individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records and this is something we will have to work through,” he said.
One of the leaders is Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier who also headed the paramilitary group FRAPH, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, which killed and maimed hundreds of Aristide supporters under military dictatorship between 1991-94.
Philippe was in the military in the period when it repressed dissident politicians.
Col. David Berger, head of a U.S. Marine contingent, said 150 Marines from the 8th Battalion, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., had arrived to secure key sites in the capital to achieve more stability. Fifty Marines had already been sent to protect the American Embassy during the uprising.
Powell said the U.S. forces “will have a lead role” initially in restoring order.
“I think initially we will comprise the bulk of the effort,” he told CBS on Monday. “But I think over time, those numbers will shift.”
The 50 French troops were sent to secure French diplomatic sites, including the embassy and ambassador’s residence.
The United States is helping create an interim “council of elders” made up of the opposition, the government and the international community to run Haiti until early elections next year, according to officials at the State Department.