News24

Madagascar rivals to talk in SA

2010-04-28 19:00

Johannesburg - Madagascar's interim leader Andry Rajoelina and the man he ousted as president of the Indian Ocean island, Marc Ravalomanana, were due to hold talks in South Africa on Wednesday on a draft roadmap to lead the country out of its protracted political crisis.

Both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana arrived in Pretoria on Tuesday, where their negotiating teams were in talks with South African and French mediators on a draft accord that, if implemented, would restore constitutional order to the troubled island.

South African President Jacob Zuma was due to chair direct talks between the 35-year-old former DJ and Ravalomanana in Pretoria later on Wednesday.

Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, which lies off Africa's southeast coast, has been in crisis since January last year, when the opposition began massive demonstrations against the rule of Marc Ravalomanana.

The demonstrations, which saw dozens of people killed by security forces, culminated in Ravalomanana's ouster by the former mayor of the capital Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, with the backing of a section of the military.

The international community likened Rajoelina's power grab to a coup and refused to endorse his installation as interim president in March last year. Ravalomanana has been in exile in southern Africa ever since.

Power-sharing

After months of internationally-brokered negotiations, the movements of the two rivals and two other former presidents, Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka agreed last year to form a power-sharing government that would prepare the country for new elections.

Rajoelina later reneged on the agreement but he is now under pressure to end the dispute: The African Union has slapped him with sanctions and elements in the Malagasy army are growing restless.

South Africa, which is mediating on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and France are hoping that the two men will ink (agree to) an accord, Radio France Internationale reported.

Madagascar's population of around 20 million people, among the poorest in the world, has borne the brunt of the political uncertainty.

Western donors have frozen non-essential aid to the spice island, where economic growth slowed to 0.6% last year from 7% in 2008.