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Madagascar’s Former President Says He Will Return

Madagascar's former president, Marc Ravalomanana, during a press conference in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, February 17, 2011

Madagascar's ousted president Marc Ravalomanana says he will return home despite a threat by the current government to arrest him on arrival. The former president made the remarks in South Africa where he has been in exile for the past two years.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana told reporters he will return Saturday to Madagascar, saying he was prepared to talk with any political leader and urging all to set aside selfish interests for the good of the nation.

"To help restore democracy it is time for me to come hom," he said. "I wish to lead by example. I wish, with all of us and all of you, to stand up for peace and democracy and the right to freedom of choice for the ordinary Malagasy."

He said he did not fear arrest as threatened by the current government.

Mr. Ravalomanana fled into exile two years ago following a military-backed coup that brought the former mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, to power.

A court subsequently convicted Mr. Ravalomanana in absentia of responsibility for the deaths of 30 demonstrators who were killed by the presidential guard during a protest.

The African Union and Southern Economic Development Community have refused to recognize the Rajoelina government and many international donors have suspended non-humanitarian aid, leading to economic decline.

The SADC has mediated two power-sharing accords but these have failed.

Mr. Rajoelina last year said he would organize a transitional government and hold elections without international mediation, a proposal that was rejected by the major opposition parties.

SADC mediator Leonardo Simao recently proposed a new plan under which Mr. Rajoelina would remain interim president and a transitional government of all parties would organize elections later this year.

Mr. Ravalomanana rejected the proposal.

"That is not an official SADC roadmap but only proposed by an individual in the mediating team. It is a pro-Rajoelina transition plan designed to keep me out of Madagascar and out of any participation political [in politics]," he said.

He said the political and human rights situation in Madagascar has deteriorated and that any criticism or opposition of the government is being suppressed.

Supporters of Mr. Rajoelina accuse the former president of similar excesses during his time in power.