Madagascar leaders sign road map

2011-09-17 08:35
Antananarivio - Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina bowed to foreign pressure on Saturday and signed a political road map that allows for the unconditional return of his exiled predecessor ahead of elections within a year, mediators and political parties said.

All but one of Madagascar's three main opposition parties signed the agreement, which a European diplomat said opened the way for donor nations to formally recognise Rajoelina's leadership for the first time since he led a coup in 2009.

The accord, mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc of nations, confirmed one-time disc jockey and former mayor of the capital Rajoelina as president.

"We are satisfied with the road map even if it does not fulfil all our demands," Mamy Rakotoarivelo, head of the Ravalomanana delegation, told Reuters after a signing ceremony in the early hours of Saturday.

"We believe (former President) Marc Ravalomanana will be able to return as soon as the transitional administration is put in place."

Madagascar has been rocked by instability and economic decline since Rajoelina overthrew Ravalomanana with the help of rebel troops in March 2009.

He had previously said Ravalomanana could not return to the Indian Ocean island until it was stable and that the former president could be held to account for crimes committed during his final weeks in power.

Ravalomanana has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison over the killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the run-up to his overthrow.

The road map urged the swift passing of an amnesty law.

"This road map is recognised by the international community," said Philippe Willaert, who led the European Union's delegation.
Madagascar has been suspended from the regional SADC and African Union (AU) blocs since Rajoelina's power-grab.

The AU slapped sanctions on Rajoelina and more than 100 of his backers more than a year ago, while the EU and other donors froze aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

There was no immediate word on the lifting of sanctions and aid suspensions.

African nations and foreign leaders have said a consensus government and a road map to credible elections are essential for the release of frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We have 12 months to organise elections," Tomaz Salomao, secretary general of SADC, told Reuters.

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