Madagascan Ex-President Demands Role in Talks, Wants to Run in Election

Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted as president of Madagascar in March 2009, said he wants to return home to participate in mediation talks, and that he would like to run in presidential elections this year. Five days after he was prevented from boarding a flight to Madagascar from Johannesburg, where he is in exile, Ravalomanana said he didn’t want to participate in a new transitional government headed by Andry Rajoelina.

“I just want to go back for 24, or 40 hours, to take part in peaceful dialogue between Malagasy parties, and then I will come back,” Ravalomanana said by phone today. “I do not think I or Rajoelina should be part of any transitional government.” A proposal from the Southern African Development Community’s international mediation team has said the former president shouldn’t return to Madagascar until the country’s stability can be ensured. That would make it impossible for him to run in elections to be held by November because Rajoelina changed the constitution to say candidates must be resident in the country for six months prior to the vote.

Ravalomanana said he rejected SADC’s “road map” out of a crisis that was triggered when Rajoelina seized power with the help of the military and later reneged on power sharing agreements with three former presidents. Ravalomanana wants SADC to organize four-party talks, including Rajoelina, to meet in Madagascar and for the regional body to ensure the safe passage of former president Didier Ratsiraka and himself.

With or Without You
Leonardo Simao, who is heading SADC’s international mediation team, said negotiations over Madagascar would be closed “within the coming days,” with eight of 11 parties signed up to the “road map.”

“Those who have chosen not to participate, for strategic or other reasons, will have the responsibility for explaining to their activists, their supporters, why they are not participating, not the mediation team,” Simao said in an interview in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, today. Ravalomanana’s party “were awaiting instructions from their leader in South Africa,” he said.

The three parties that have rejected the accord “represent the most popular and credible parties in Madagascar,” and that there could be no consensus without them, Ravalomanana said. The “road map” would make Rajoelina president of a transitional government until elections later this year.

Madagascar’s government will ask South Africa to “keep Ravalomanana there for as long as possible” to avoid any trouble and allow the country to move forward with mediation, Prime Minister Camille Vital said today. The government issued an arrest warrant for Ravalomanana following his Feb. 17 announcement to journalists in Johannesburg that he would return.

“It could be that we end up going to look for him with the arrest warrant, if he insists” on returning, Vital said in an interview today. “I think it is better for him to stay in South Africa.”


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