Madagascar Power Sharing Talks Resume After Brief Walkout
Madagascar Power Sharing Talks Resume After Brief Walkout
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Madagascar's former president Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted in a coup earlier this year, is promising to cooperate in a transitional government with the young leader who replaced him.  Madagascar's political chiefs reached a power sharing deal minutes before a deadline that would have cost the country nearly a billion dollars in aid money.

Former Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana was in a conciliatory mood Saturday.

Hours earlier, the 59-year-old self-made millionaire had backed away from earlier statements, and agreed to accept his bitter rival, 35-year old Andry Rajoelina as president of a transitional government. Mr. Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, led the military-backed movement that forced Mr. Ravalomanana to resign last March.

Sitting with a few reporters in an empty conference room at African Union headquarters, he compared Mr. Rajoelina to his own son, who is about the same age.

"Like the young people, this is a challenge to do in his life," he said.  "That is why he removed me from this position.  So let us see it.  I am sure I will help him.  Do not worry about it.  I have a son like him.  So I can do something.  I can help him."

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A few hours earlier, Mr. Rajoelina had emerged from a meeting of the chiefs of Madagascar's four main political movements to announce that he would lead the transitional administration that will organize fresh elections next year.

He says the chiefs of the four political movements have agreed that the president of the transitional government is Andry Rajoelina. He explained that instead of a single president, there will be a three-person council consisting of a president and two co-presidents, one of whom will be a top aide to Mr. Ravalomanana.

The power-sharing deal was agreed over four days of sometimes heated talks at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Witnesses say at one point early Friday, chief mediator at the talks, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano ordered Mr. Rajoelina to sit down and be quiet when he threatened to walk out. 

A deal was reached late Friday, hours before the end of a four-month period during which the European Union assessed progress toward the return of constitutional order.  The agreement means Madagascar's cash-poor government will receive 630 million Euros, or 930 million dollars in aid that had been blocked after the March coup.

Mr. Ravalomanana said the prospect of losing that badly needed cash had been a strong motivator in reaching what he called a miracle deal.

"Now I got this letter from the European Union. We have this 630 million euro so this is great," he said.  "This is why I said to them ... we have to reach this agreement, they did not believe it.  Yesterday you knew the situation here, but right now it is good.  It is like a miracle."

African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra says the deal reached in Addis Ababa will not be enough to remove A.U. sanctions imposed on Madagascar because of the coup. Lamamra said the international recognition would likely be withheld until a new government is elected and constitutional order is restored.

Under the current constitution, the 35-year old Mr. Rajoelina is too young to run for president.  But in his conciliatory mood Saturday, Mr. Ravalomanana suggested he would not object to a constitutional change that would allow his arch-rival to seek the presidency.

Mr. Ravalomanana said it is too early to say whether he might return to politics.  He left office after months of violent protests by opponents who charged he had abused the presidency in promoting his business interests.  He denies the charges, but left the country and currently lives in exile in South Africa.