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Disagreement Persists on SADC Madagascar Proposal

Madagascar's leader Andry Rajoelina (left) and his wife

A southern African mediator says a proposed deal to end Madagascar's political crisis will be concluded in a few days despite the main political parties rejecting it. Andry Rajoelina, who seized presidential power in a 2009 coup, has threatened to move ahead if the deal is not signed soon, while deposed President Marc Ravalomanana says no consensus can be reached without the major parties and wants new talks held in Madagascar to include him.

A proposal aimed at lifting Madagascar from a two-year crisis will be concluded "in the coming days" even without the signatures of the three main political parties, according to Mozambican politician and head of the southern African mediation team Leonardo Simao.

Simao met Thursday with Madagascar's Prime Minister Camille Vital, who said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) process is taking too long for the Rajoelina government. Rajoelina has said he will hold his own talks with political parties next week and move ahead with the proposal, which recognizes him as president until elections are held later this year."

Mozambican politician and head of the southern African mediation team for Madagascar, Leonardo Simao
Mozambican politician and head of the southern African mediation team for Madagascar, Leonardo Simao
After his meeting with Vital, Simao said those who choose not to be involved in the process by rejecting the proposal, for strategic or other reasons, would be responsible for explaining to their supporters why they were not participating in the system.

He confirmed that two parties loyal to former presidents have refused to sign up to the proposal, thereby excluding them from the interim government, while the party of ousted president Ravalomanana was awaiting instruction from their exiled leader in South Africa. Under the proposal, Ravalomanana is blocked from returning to Madagascar until a new government deems it politically stable enough.

Simao said the proposal would soon be reviewed by SADC and the African Union, both of which suspended Madagascar following the March 2009 coup led by Rajoelina.

But Ravalomanana said that his party would not sign the current proposal and said the three parties plus Rajoelina's administration must meet up for more talks or there would be no consensus and no end to the crisis.

"Malagasy-Malagasy dialogue; it is so important for the political parties," said Ravalomanana. "We need to talk. They cannot solve it without these talks, reconciliation."

After meeting with SADC mediator and former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano on Tuesday, Ravalomanana wrote a letter asking SADC to set up four-party talks and secure the arrival of himself and fellow exiled president Didier Ratsiraka in Madagascar.

He said the three former presidents' parties are the only credible and popular parties in Madagascar, and asserted that many satellite parties with few members and no basis have been set up and financed by the current administration in order to get the document signed in their favor.

Ravalomanana has vowed to return to Madagascar despite restrictions put in place by the authorities that foiled an attempt on Saturday to fly from Johannesburg.

He said while he would like to run in the presidential elections, he and Rajoelina should not be part of the transitional government in order for it to be neutral. The deposed president says he only wants to return for peaceful dialogue and to sign a new political accord.

"So if I am going back to Madagascar, just to promote the Malagasy-Malagasy talks, and then I can come back here, here," said Ravalomanana. "I don't want to interfere or create trouble in my country. I want to bring peace."

A new constitution introduced in November by the current administration requires presidential candidates to be resident in Madagascar six months prior to elections. Under the SADC proposal, both parliamentary and presidential elections must be held before December.

Prime Minister Vital said he would request the South African government keep Ravalomanana "for as long as possible," and said restrictions on him arriving should not be lifted until the country has a new government.

Vital said if the former president insisted on trying to come back they would bring his arrest warrant to him, and advised him to stay in peace in South Africa.