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Posted Monday, April 23, 2007
                     
Mbeki to attend Aristide graduation Wednesday
                  
By iafrica.com

SOUTH AFRICA, Apr 23, 2007 - Ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, exiled in South Africa, will this week receive a doctorate in African Languages in a ceremony attended by President Thabo Mbeki.

The priest, who became Haiti's first democratically-elected leader, has been a guest of the South African government since fleeing an uprising in the Caribbean nation in February 2004.

Shortly after making his home in South Africa, Aristide was appointed an honorary research fellow at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria.

The populist ruler, who failed to win the approval of Haiti's middle and upper classes during his two stints as president, has qualifications in theology, philosophy and psychology obtained at universities in Haiti and Rome.

"He will receive his doctorate in African Languages," Unisa spokesperson Abe Mokoka told AFP.

Spokesperson in the presidency David Hlabane, confirmed that Mbeki would be attending the graduation ceremony on Wednesday evening.

Opposition parties in South Africa have questioned the state's decision to house Aristide on taxpayer's money.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told Parliament last year the government was covering the costs of the stay of Aristide, his family, staff and entourage, which were "similar to the cost normally incurred for a South African cabinet minister".

She said conditions such as stability and an assurance of the former president's safety were not yet in place for him to return to Haiti.

Aristide (52), has long maintained that he was forced to step down under pressure from the United States and France and had urged the African Union to take up his claims that he was victim of a coup. AFP

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