Aristide was elected in 1990 but was overthrown by the military after just seven months in office. American troops forced the military out in September 1994 and Aristide was back in command a few weeks later.
I was on the lawn of the now collapsed presidential palace to see his helicopter touch down.
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians took to the streets to celebrate that day, many of them clinging to the palace railings hoping to catch a glimpse of their leader. The sense of optimism was almost palpable.
That night, however, was even more memorable. I spent the evening in the notorious Cite Soleil slum. Tens of thousands of people lived in Cite Soleil and many more were in the neighbouring La Saline shanty. The streets were dusty and mostly unpaved and open sewers ran through them. I was working for Reuters and The New York Times but I went for purely for the thrill of it and I was not disappointed.
People had painted the sidewalk the national colours of red and blue and drawn murals of Aristide and the cockerel – his party’s symbol – on walls.
Those in cars and tap-taps tooted their horns. People waved five fingers in the air, five being Aristide’s number on the ballot.
Some people had set up makeshift altars in tribute to Aristide, decorated with brightly coloured beach towels or bed sheets and hung with balloons. They didn’t have much but this was a special night and they were going to make the most of it.
Normally the streets of Cite Soleil were eerily quiet at night. It was dangerous and shootings were common. The only noise would come from radios or quiet conversation or people playing cards or dominoes. Tonight, though, the streets were thronged and there was music and laughter.
People were parading and singing and dancing. Their lives were lived in abject misery and hardship but for one night that depravation did not matter. Everyone was happy. Haitians had their president back.