Madagascar’s leader hints at ‘neutral’ government


Madagascar’s leader said he could form a politically “neutral” government after last-ditch power-sharing talks failed over the weekend, and said he expected to retain the military’s support.

President Andry Rajoelina has been at the centre of a bitter leadership battle since he overthrew former leader Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident troops in March 2009 following weeks of violent protests.

Last month, the military gave Africa’s youngest leader until the end of April to find a solution after the African Union slapped sanctions on Rajoelina and more than 100 of his allies.
“We have decided -… when politicians can’t get on with one another, directing government affairs and the main political institutions must be left to neutral personalities,” he told reporters in the capital Antananarivo.

He gave no details but there has been speculation that the new government could be an all-inclusive entity representing technocrats, civil society as well as the armed forces.

Under the old constitution, Rajoelina, 35, would be too young to lead Madagascar, where foreign investment had skyrocketed as companies like Rio Tinto and Sherritt International moved in to tap oil and mineral deposits.

But the political turmoil has hammered the island’s tourism sector and analysts expect foreign investment to slow sharply.

Rajoelina did not say if he would sack his prime minister, a senior military officer, but declared the time for talks was over. He said however he was open to proposals from his rivals.

Hours after laying out his roadmap to ending the more than 14-month crisis on the Indian Ocean Island before the military top-brass, Rajoelina said: “I believe we are on the same wave length as the armed forces.”
“We have to move forward, we must build the Fourth Republic. The transition must end this year,” Rajoelina said. A final decision on how to take the former French colony forward would be made within 48 hours, he said.

There was no immediate comment from opposition or military leaders.

Last week, Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former Presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy attended three days of talks in Pretoria, organised by mediators from France, South Africa and the South African Development Community.

SADC mediator and former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said the sticking points at the negotiations were the timing of elections and an amnesty for alleged crimes during the run-up to Ravalomanana’s downfall.

International mediators brokered a string of deals last year that paved the way for a unity government, only for them to collapse on Rajoelina’s return to the island.

Rajoelina said he would “take measures” against anyone trying to obstruct the path to elections on the world’s fourth largest island. Foreign donors have warned that unilaterally organised elections would lack legitimacy and transparency.

Pic: President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar