Madagascar rivals hopeful in new peace talks

Former Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana said he was hopeful a relaunch of peace talks between the country’s rival factions would bring progress towards a return to political stability.
The Indian Ocean Island was shaken by a coup in March which saw Ravalomanana ousted by President Andry Rajoelina, assisted by army support after weeks of street protests, Reuters reports.
The talks that began in Mozambique yesterday were the first time leaders of the two sides had met face to face since.
“I’m happy to be here. Talks have started smoothly and (are) going well,” Ravalomanana said after talks which were expected to continue today.
The coup in March alarmed foreign investors, put off tourists and depressed economic growth. Rajoelina has been shunned by many nations and Ravalomanana, living in exile in SA, insists he is still the legitimate leader.
The AU indefinitely suspended crisis talks in Madagascar in June after failing to broker a deal on the formation of a consensus government.
Rajoelina told reporters before leaving for Mozambique’s capital Maputo that he was attending the talks to try to end violence and restore peace to Madagascar.
Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, both former presidents, are also attending the discussions. They are still seen as influential power brokers, and analysts say they would need to be part of any lasting solution to the political turmoil.
“It (talks) went on in a cordial manner. It’s not negative,” said Ratsiraka.
Rajoelina has said presidential elections will be held by the end of 2010 but could take place earlier under the right conditions. The timing of polls and who will be able to stand have been sticking points.
Opposition groups say Rajoelina, who has scrapped the constitution and set up an interim government, must not be allowed to plan a poll unilaterally.

Pic: Former Madagascar President- Marc Ravalomanana