SAA forced to ground former president of Madagascar

2011-02-19 17:29

Ousted Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana has vowed to use any means necessary to return to his country.

This comes after he was barred from boarding an SA Airlink flight from OR Tambo International ­Airport to Antananarivo yesterday morning.

“I’m shocked and bitterly disappointed to have been turned away by the illegal regime this morning. This is an abuse of power,” the ­exiled president told journalists at a press conference.

SA Airlink spokesperson Karin Murray said the airline was given an instruction by the Madagascar Civil Aviation Authority not to ­allow Ravalomanana to board the plane.

A letter sent to the airline stated Ravalomanana and his ­entourage were “non-grata persons in Madagascar. So to preserve ­public order, don’t take them aboard.”

“If he is on board, the plane will not be allowed to land. We are just following an instruction and there is no way around it,” Murray said.

Ravalomanana (61) has been in exile for almost two years after ­being ousted by the Indian Ocean island’s new strongman Andry ­Rajoelina with the military’s ­support.

Ravalomanana said thousands of his supporters were waiting for him at the airport in Madagascar. “I’m doing what the Malagasy ­people want me to do?.?.?. to start a Malagasy-to-Malagasy dialogue in order to restore peace.”

Rajoelina’s regime has warned Ravalomanana that he would be ­arrested if he returned. He was ­sentenced in absentia to life in ­prison last year for the death of 30 protesters killed by presidential guards in 2009.

The deposed president said on Thursday the Rajoelina ­regime was unconstitutional and that he was the country’s rightful ruler.

Hours later, Rajoelina told a military ceremony that if Ravalomanana returned, it would be a declaration of war.

ABC, the Spanish news agency, reported: “It is unthinkable that he should return just as it is inconceivable that Ben Ali returns to ­Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak ­returns to Egypt.”

Ravalomanana has rejected the latest plan by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediators to form a transitional government with Rajoelina as interim president.

The South African government said it would respond once SADC mediator, ex-Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano, tabled his report at the next SADC meeting.

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