/ 27 May 2009

Ravalomanana: ‘Madagascar governed by bandits’

Madagascar’s ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana has accused France of supporting the Indian Ocean island’s new president and said the former colonial power wanted to enslave the Malagasy people.

Ravalomanana, who spoke on local radio late on Tuesday, stepped down in March and fled to Southern Africa after intense pressure from Rajoelina’s popular movement and dissident troops.

”Today Madagascar is governed by a group of bandits, led by Andry Rajoelina and supported by the French,” said Ravalomanana.

Ravalomanana said France was out to enslave the people of Madagascar and was acting only with its vested interests at heart.

Ravalomanana allies have suggested French involvement in Rajoelina’s rise to power since the outset of the crisis, but this is the first time Ravalomanana has pointed the finger.

In recent years major foreign companies, including French oil giant Total, have poured into the world’s fourth largest island to exploit its mineral and hydrocarbon reserves.

The political instability that started in early 2009 and brought Rajoelina to power in March, has spooked foreign investors at the same time as low commodity prices are forcing companies to review investment plans.

Cross-party talks to end the crisis, which has wrecked the $390-million-a-year tourism sector, were derailed at the weekend when one delegation quit and another said it would follow suit.

”[The French] objective is to recolonise Madagascar and enslave the Malagasy people. Their goal is to provoke a tribal war,” Ravalomanana said from exile in South Africa.

”France does not want Madagascar to develop. It is only concerned with its own interests.”

The self-made millionaire had a turbulent relationship with France. He expelled the previous French ambassador, Gildas Le Lidec, last July after a few months in the post.

The new French ambassador, Jean-Marc Chataigner, arrived days after the March power-grab but has not yet been officially installed in office.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was among foreign leaders and regional blocs to accuse the former DJ of staging a coup. Several donors, including the International Monetary Fund and the United States, have suspended non-emergency aid.

Ravalomanana insists he remains the country’s legitimate leader and has pledged to return within weeks. The interim government has issued an arrest warrant for him.

No one from the French embassy in Antananarivo was available to comment. Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960. – Reuters