Madagascar leaders in Maputo for crisis talks

Madagascar’s political leaders headed for Mozambique on Tuesday, where international mediators will try to help them resolve the crisis sparked by the overthrow in March of President Marc Ravalomanana.

Ravalomanana, currently exiled to South Africa, will join transitional leader Andry Rajoelina and two of the country’s former leaders Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy for the talks, the first of their kind.

Rajoelina flew into Maputo on Tuesday for the four days of mediated talks with his political rivals declaring he would seek consensus to end the crisis.

He told reporters “the future of Madagascar is in our hands.

“We have come here to Maputo to find a consensus by working with the three former heads of state in Madagascar,” Rajoelina said.

“I have come here personally to tell them to their face how I see the future of Madagascar,” he added.

The other three parties were expected to arrive later on Tuesday.

An official from regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said the talks, starting on Wednesday, were due to last four days.

“The objective of this meeting is to bring the parties to an agreement on the path to follow to re-establish stability and political co-existence in Madagascar,” said SADC executive Tomaz
Salomoa.

Mediators will hold separate meetings with each of the four parties late on Tuesday, said an official close to the talks.

The mediation team, led by Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano, has not set any specific goal for the summit.

SADC appointed Chissano in June to mediate the crisis after initiatives by the African Union and the United Nations broke down.

So far, all attempts to find a negotiated solution have floundered over the content of a transition charter intended to take Madagascar to new elections and bring the country out of its current international isolation.

The African Union (AU) mediator Ablasse Ouedraogo said the meeting of the four leaders is “one stage in the process of seeking a negotiated solution to reach an end to the crisis.

“These four leaders ... hold the key to solving the problem,” Ouedraogo said. “But we are not going to Maputo to sign anything.
We’re going so that the four can talk to one another and break the ice.

“If we were to see an obvious desire to adopt a charter that can take us through the transition, we’d push for it.”

Emmanuel Rakotovahiny, from Zafy’s team, was more direct, saying the four leaders would “wash their dirty laundry together—it’s a good thing ... they need to be humble enough to admit where they went wrong ... There’s no longer any excuse for not finding a solution.”

The four leaders need to put personal considerations behind them “otherwise they get stoned when they go back” to Antananarivo.

“It’ll be a bit tense at the beginning, but that’s the aim of this meeting,” said Fetison Andrianirina, who heads Ravalomanana’s delegation.

He saw the meeting as “decisive”.

“If everybody wants the good of this country we will need an inclusive agreement that suits all parties.”

Madagascar has been in crisis since the start of the year because of a stand-off between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, then mayor of the capital and opposition leader.

After demonstrations that left more than 100 dead, Ravalomanana, abandoned by the army, put power in the hands of a military directorate who immediately transferred it to Rajoelina.

Since then, the international community has been demanding a return to “constitutional order” and has suspended the bulk of its aid to Madagascar, one of the poorest nations on earth. - AFP

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