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African Union Sanctions Madagascar's Leaders

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina (file photo)

The AU Peace and Security Council has slapped harsh penalties on Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina and 108 other senior government officials. The sanctions include a call for Madagascar's diplomatic isolation until the government returns to internationally mediated power-sharing talks.

Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said the sanctions are designed to get the attention of those who have turned their back on mediation efforts led by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

"It is a refusal to grant visas and a freeze of financial assets in foreign banks as well as diplomatic isolation by requesting all international organizations ... to refuse the accreditation of representatives of the regime in place in Antananarivo," he said.

Lamamra said a formal letter would be sent within hours to the United Nations and other international organizations asking them to enforce the accreditation ban.

Mr. Rajoelina came to power a year ago in a military-backed coup that ousted former President Marc Ravalomanana.

He later signed two internationally mediated agreements calling for formation of a unity government, including all four of Madagascar's main political factions. But in December, he renounced the accords.

The commissioner said the severity of the sanctions was partly an expression of the Peace and Security Council's frustration that the failed mediation process had dragged on so long.

"There is very little room for patience one year after a coup took place in any given country," he said.

But Lamamra emphasized that the approach to Madagascar has two tracks. The first is tough penalties, the second is a hoped-for return to negotiations.

"I hope these sanctions will have the effect of nurturing wisdom and realism and that the solutions to the problems of Madagascar have to be based on consensus. No unilateral party is likely to solve the problems of Madagascar by itself."

Lamamra said the sanctions would target members of Madagascar's High Transitional Authority, the extra constitutional body ruling the island nation, as well as senior military officers and members of the Constitutional Court whom he says have blocked efforts to restore constitutional order.

Experts say the penalties are mostly symbolic. The island nation was suspended from the African Union when the coup took place last March, and has also suffered the cutoff of non-essential western aid.