Madagascar’s leader spurns Ethiopia mediation talks


Madagascar’s president spurned yesterday the African Union’s (AU) latest attempt to resolve the Indian Ocean island’s crisis, increasing the chance the continent’s youngest leader will face sanctions this month.

The world’s fourth largest island has been gripped by political deadlock since Andry Rajoelina, 35, took power from President Marc Ravalomanana last March after weeks of street protests and with the backing of dissident soldiers.

The AU said last month it would slap travel bans and asset freezes on the leadership on March 17 unless the “de facto” government complied with power-sharing agreements struck last year in Mozambique and Ethiopia.

It sent letters to Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and two other former presidents on March 1 inviting them to talks in Addis Ababa on March 8-10 to try and implement those deals.
“Personally, I will not be going to Addis Ababa,” Rajoelina told reporters yesterday.
“We are on the eve of celebrating our 50th anniversary since independence.

We should be given our sovereignty. We will look for our solution ourselves.”

Madagascar gained independence from France on June 26, 1960.

In reply to the AU invitation, Rajoelina instead asked the AU Commission and the International Contact Group for Madagascar to join a two-day workshop which started yesterday and is tasked with agreeing a roadmap for a return to democracy.

There was no immediate comment from the African Union on Rajoelina’s snub. Its invitation made clear that if any of the four leaders failed to come, the meeting would be cancelled.

Rajoelina has pledged to hold transparent and democratic parliamentary elections in May, with a view to amending the constitution and holding presidential elections thereafter.

But Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique who has led mediation efforts between the leaders, said the AU’s stance had not softened and power-sharing should happen.
“It’s time for implementing what they decided,” he told reporters in Cape Town. “The international community will stand by its rules.”

Some analysts say Madagascar’s heavy reliance on foreign aid gives mediators a chance to drag Rajoelina back to negotiations. The United States severed preferential trade agreements last year and the European Union is considering following suit.

But Rajoelina seemed resigned to sanctions when he addressed the opening of the workshop in the capital, which was boycotted by leaders of the three main opposition parties.
“Sanctions will come,” he said. “It’s up to the Malagasy to choose their future path.

We will show our solidarity.”

Pic: President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar