Sunday, May 3, 2009

Madagascar: South Africa Warns Ousted Leader

30 April 2009,

The South African government has cautioned deposed Malagasy leader Marc Ravalomanana against returning to his country, saying such a move would be “unwise, provocative and may even incite the deaths of many innocent people.”

The South African view was spelled out by the country’s top diplomat, Ayanda Ntsaluba, in a news conference in Pretoria on Wednesday, according to a transcript released by the foreign ministry.

Ntsaluba’s warning followed an announcement by Ravalomanana on April 15 that he planned to return home under the protection of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to begin a national dialogue with his successor, Andry Rajoelina, in the hope of organizing new presidential elections by the end of the year.

Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana with the backing of the military in March. His seizure of power was condemned as unconstitutional by both SADC and the African Union.

Ntsaluba told the news conference that SADC believed Ravalomanana should return “at some point” but that talks with the new leadership were needed to prepare the way “so that they see that it is in the interests of Madagascar to find some other solution to the current challenges.” He said South Africa had been encouraged by the opening of “lines of communication” between Malagasy parties by United Nations diplomats.

Also on Wednesday, the person named by Ravalomanana as his prime minister, Manandafy Rakotonirina, his bodyguards and a former defence minister were arrested at a major hotel, reports L'Express de Madagascar from the capital, Antananarivo. The newspaper said an angry mob molested Pierre Andriatenaina, a member of Rajoelina’s administration who arrived at the scene after the security forces had left.

Earlier, Rakotonirina’s spokesperson, Constant Raveloson, said security forces were preventing pro-Ravalomanana groups from holding a meeting in a hall. He deplored the way Ravalomanana supporters were being treated.

On Monday, Rajoelina’s administration arrested three security officials accused of supporting Ravalomanana. Security forces fired shots during the incident, which occurred at the Constitutional Court. The administration believed the arrested officials had committed an act of sabotage meant to discredit the transitional government during street protests last week.