Leaders meet on Madagascar

2011-05-20 14:26

Southern African leaders met today in Namibia’s capital Windhoek to discuss a plan to guide Madagascar toward elections under the leadership of strongman Andry Rajoelina.

The eight leaders at the extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were also set to review the crisis in Zimbabwe, but a decision on Madagascar was seen as more likely.

“The summit will consider reports on the ongoing mediation efforts in Zimbabwe and Madagascar,” Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba said in opening the meeting.

On Madagascar, the leaders were expected to decide whether to endorse a “roadmap” that would allow Rajoelina to remain in power until new elections are organised, possibly by November.

Rajoelina ousted president Marc Ravalomanana with the army’s backing in March 2009.

At the time, SADC condemned the takeover and suspended the Indian Ocean island nation from the regional body. The European Union suspended aid last year over Madagascar’s political deadlock.

The self-declared president has spent the last two weeks drumming up support in Europe and Africa for the election plan, which is opposed by Ravalomanana.

Zambian President Rupiah Banda was also expected to brief the summit on a security meeting held March 31, when President Robert Mugabe was chided for failing to rein in political violence and for stalled efforts to draft a new constitution meant to pave the way to fresh elections.

South African President Jacob Zuma, the regional mediator in Zimbabwe, was staying home to celebrate his party’s victories in local elections. Without the regional heavyweight, little action was expected on Zimbabwe.

Mugabe was attending the meeting but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his rival and partner in a fragile unity government, was not.

Other issues on the agenda include preparations for a June summit in South Africa on creating a continent-wide free trade area, and a review of the regional economy.

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