Madagascar mediators beg for exiled leader’s return

Southern African mediators in Madagascar’s protracted leadership battle on Friday urged strongman Andry Rajoelina to agree to the return of exiled leader Marc Ravalomanana ahead of new polls.

“Andry Rajoelina and the group of eight are saying they cannot allow the return of Marc Ravalomanana until after elections,” South Africa’s deputy foreign minister Marius Fransman said during fresh talks in Antananarivo.

“We find this unacceptable because it is not in the letter or the spirit of the Southern African Development Community summit in Sandton last June which was endorsed by the recent SADC summit in Luanda.”

Fransman led a delegation of the SADC policy, defence and security organ, known as the troika, to the island on Wednesday.

The regional bloc is calling for Ravalomanana, who was ousted in a 2009 army-backed coup, to be allowed to return to participate in elections and has adopted a roadmap initialled by eight political parties in March.

“No-one can claim to represent 20-million Malgash without an election,” Fransman said in a telephone interview from Antananarivo.

“The choice in Madagascar is between a political or a military solution”, he added.

The SADC troika of South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania is calling on the parties in Madagascar to sign an agreement based on the SADC peace proposals.

“We are making a call to see who is at fault in this process,” said Fransman.

“We are calling on Rajoelina and the group of eight to rise to the occasion so we can have an inclusive agreement.”

Ravalomanana has refused to sign the SADC roadmap which would keep Rajoelina as president of a transitional government and allow his return from exile in South Africa when security conditions are “favourable”.

He faces life in prison in Madagascar after being sentenced in absentia over the killing of demonstrators by his presidential guard during the protests that led to his overthrow. — AFP

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