SADC ‘should open Madagascar office’

Southern African leaders working to resolve the political crisis in Madagascar should open a liaison office on the island and send a team of ministers there, Mauritius’s foreign minister said Friday.

Arvin Boolell made the call the day after the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) wrapped up a two-day summit in Angola without announcing progress on resolving Madagascar’s protracted leadership battle.

Boolell, Mauritius’ representative at the meeting, has been a key player in the SADC’s efforts to mediate the crisis unleashed when elected president Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by current strongman Andry Rajoelina in March 2009.

“It is long overdue for SADC to have a liaison office in Madagascar. We have to take cognisance of what is going on in Madagascar. We have to feel the pulse of the people,” Boolell said.

He said he had proposed at the meeting that “a dedicated ministerial team be sent to Madagascar” to promote an SADC-backed roadmap to new elections. The matter was referred to the regional bloc’s security troika, he said.

Ravalomanana has refused to sign the SADC roadmap, which would keep Rajoelina in power as president of a transitional government.

The rivals are deadlocked over whether Ravalomanana can return from exile in South Africa to stand in new elections.

Rajoelina says the ousted president will be arrested if he returns, after being sentenced in abstentia to life in prison for the killing of 36 protesters by his presidential guard during the unrest of 2009.

Boolell lent support to Ravalomanana’s bid to run in the new poll, saying “Any Malagasy who’s entitled to stand as candidate, who has the legitimate right to be back in Madagascar, should be entitled to do so.” — AFP

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