Difficult talks resume to resolve Madagascar crisis

Madagascar’s leaders resumed power-sharing talks in Mozambique on Tuesday to pick a transitional government mandated with steering the country towards fresh elections after months of political upheaval.

Andry Rajoelina, whose campaign of street protests culminated in a coup that ousted former leader Marc Ravalomanana in March, will aim to cement his leadership of a country increasingly eyed by investors for its oil, bauxite, nickel, cobalt, gold and uranium.

Madagascar’s feuding power-brokers have to nominate a president, a prime minister, three deputy prime ministers and 28 ministers within 30 days under the terms of a deal struck on August 9 in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.

“These talks are not easy,” Leonardo Simao, a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) delegation, told reporters as the talks got under way.

Former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy will sit alongside Rajoelina and Ravalomanana to hammer out an agreement.

The crisis has cut economic growth on the world’s fourth-largest island, while the international community has suspended aid and left Rajoelina floundering in diplomatic isolation.

The lead-up to the talks has seen Madagascar’s senior politicians jockeying for position.

Rajoelina, a 35-year-old former mayor of Antananarivo who has less than three years’ political experience, has said he is the only person to lead the transition.

Mediators, led by Mozambique’s former president, Joaquim Chissano, stressed that no political posts have yet been allocated. Under the August 9 accord, all members of the transitional government except the president will be barred from contesting the next presidential election. The poll must be held within 15 months of the agreement’s signature.

Ravalomanana has said he will not take part directly in the transition, but has not ruled out contesting the next election.

“If they fail to agree, they will be disappointing the expectations of the Malagasy people,” Simao said.

Unemployment has risen in Madagascar’s urban centres since the crisis began and more than 135 people have been killed.

While the August 9 deal restored hope among many that the country’s bitter rivals will put private interests aside, concerns linger that there are too many individuals with too much to lose under the fragile deal.

“I believe the four leaders are capable of working together.
They are no longer the problem. The problem lies with those around them,” said Antananarivo taxi driver Rojo Rivolantonihery.—Reuters

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