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Madagascar Opposition Refuses to Join U-N Organized Talks with Government


The United Nations mission in Antananarivo in conjunction with Madagascar's clergy is expected to hold peace negotiations with political parties today to resolve the ongoing political crisis. But the main opposition has turned down the invitation, saying embattled President Marc Ravalomana has flouted laid down rules for previous peace talks. This comes after the US ambassador to Madagascar warned Wednesday that the country was heading towards civil war as soldiers backing the opposition forced the army chief to resign. The army chief issued a 72 hour ultimatum to the feuding political parties to resolve a violent standoff between the opposition and the government, which has so far killed at least 100 people since early this year. Opposition leader Monja Roindefo tells reporter Peter Clottey that the president has often showed his insensitivity towards the plight of Malagasy citizens.

"This meeting was organized hastily and it was not really prepared for as it should have been. In any way, we have already attended the former meeting, but Mr. Ravalomanana did not respect any of the conditions that we have asked and which have been discussed and agreed among us. While we were sitting at the meeting, he was importing ammunition and brought in mercenaries," Roindefo noted.

He said the president has often showed gross disregard for any laid down rules or regulations governing peace negotiations.

"And soon after the former meeting, you could clearly see what was happening as he sent soldiers to repress and crush down our protests and movement, and that was our experience in meeting with him and his team. And we fear that if we go to this meeting, it would end the same way as before. But our main reason is that he (Ravalomanana) never respects any agreed conditions and never lives up to his promises," he said.

Roindefo said the government seems only to be interested in pomp and pageantry instead of resolving the numerous challenges the Malagasy population faces.

"You know what interests him (Ravalomanana) is to receive the formalities associated with the power that he holds from international organizations like the African Union, the United Nations, World Bank, and other organizations, but not really to address the problems of the poor in this country," Roindefo pointed out.

He said some Malagasies are questioning why the president flouted laid down regulations by taking money from the central bank without following procedures, an accusation the government sharply denies.

"The president takes money from the local central bank here in Madagascar without proper procedures. He just sent some soldiers to go and bring the money and these guys never filed in any papers as required by procedure. So they just took the money away and people have been wondering why the president was doing that. But it seems the president doesn't respect anything or anybody," he said.

Roindefo said the president is only interested in having a good standing on the international stage rather than catering to the needs of his people.

"His main aim is simply to appear in the eyes of the international community to talk. When he usually talks about democracy and how well it is doing here in the country, on the ground, he acts or performs dictatorship," Roindefo noted.

He denied the opposition-organized protests are destabilizing the country.

"That is not true, and that is why I want to tell even the American ambassador here he has to report correctly to the American opinion. The American opinion is very important because we know that the American people have a real concern about the problems of poverty, problems of corruption, and problems of democracy. We understand that, and that is why we are saying when we are importing mercenaries into the country instead of food for your own people, then there are problems," he said.

Roindefo described as unfortunate the failure by the international community to condemn the government's action after several opposition supporters were killed.

"When you are crushing a movement, the democracy will of the people, and when you don't respect the constitution, any of these acts is wrong, and that is what the president has been doing. But any of these acts have not been condemned by the representatives of the international community here as well as the ambassadors here," Roindefo pointed out.

Meanwhile, it is not clear if the ultimatum given by the deposed army chief will be maintained by the new Chief of the General-Staff.

The new army chief was reportedly nominated by his rebel colleagues, who refused to obey orders from president Ravalomanana to prevent anti-government demonstrations by the opposition supporters at the city center.

Usually it is the commander-in-chief, in this case President Ravalomanana, who appoints the Chief of the General-Staff of the army.

Some Malagasy political analysts say the replacement of the army chief intrinsically reveals a huge mistrust of the army against President Ravalomanana, who was elected in 2002.

The Malagasy media reports that commanders of nine military barracks over the mountainous capital city have joined forces with some 600 rebel troops of the Army Corps of Personnel and Administrative and Technical Services stationed at Soanierana, six kilometers from the city center.

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