SADC demands safe return of Ravalomanana
Pretoria - African regional mediators on Thursday demanded that Madagascar allow its ousted president Marc Ravalomanana to safely return from exile by the end of next month.
The former leader who was ousted in a 2009 coup tried to return to the island-nation last weekend, but his plane was turned back mid-air, forcing him to fly back to South Africa where he has been in exile.
The security body of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an emergency meeting with parties from Madagascar in Pretoria on Tuesday.
The troika of South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania said it demands the enactment of amnesty laws by February 29 "to facilitate the unconditional return of exiled political leaders", according to a statement.
It also urged all parties to desist from action that would "cause division and which casts aspersions on the current SADC sponsored political process".
The former president was ousted in an army-backed coup in 2009 by Andry Rajoelina, a former disk jockey-turned-politician.
The SADC brokered a "roadmap" to peace last November, leaving Rajoelina at the head of a transitional government until elections later this year. It also guaranteed the safe return of exiled former leaders.
Ravalomanana faces legal woes after being sentenced to life in prison and hard labour for the death of 30 opposition protesters killed by his presidential guard in February 2009.
He spent the past three years in exile, mostly in South Africa.
Ravalomanana was blocked from returning to Madagascar in February 2011.
Representatives of his movement in the transitional government boycotted the opening of the interim parliament on Monday in protest against the prevention of his return Saturday.
The troika warned against "selective implementation" of the roadmap and renewed calls for the establishment of an election commission to prepare the way for elections later this year.
The interests of Madagascar "must be placed above narrow party political, emotional, historical and individual interests", the body said.