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US Congratulates Madagascar on Democratic Milestone

FILE - Madagascar's President Hery Rajaonarimampianina

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has sent congratulations to Madagascar as it celebrates its first Independence Day since last year's election returned it to democracy.

Kerry said he was speaking for President Barack Obama and the American people in encouraging Madagascar's newly elected leaders to govern with transparency and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Kerry said he hopes this is the start of a new and productive chapter in Madagascar's history.

Last year's election came after four years of political turmoil that started with a coup and a government unrecognized by the African Union. The United States and other countries cut off aid.

The United States has invited Madagascar's new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, to the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit in Washington in August.

Madagascar gained independence from France on June 26, 1960.