Madagascar crisis talks derailed


One of Madagascar‘s main political parties pulled out of talks to end the Indian Ocean island’s political crisis at the weekend, days after the United Nations hailed a breakthrough.

The snub by allies of former President Didier Ratsiraka, who remains an influential figure in Malagasy politics, threatens to derail efforts to form a consensus government and agree a roadmap leading to presidential elections.

Ratsiraka was forced into exile in France during the country’s last crisis in 2002 that saw Marc Ravalomanana take power. He was in turn forced into exile in South Africa this year by new President Andry Rajoelina, Reuters recounts.

“The delegation suspends its role in talks,” Ange Andrianarisoa, a member of Ratsiraka’s team, told Reuters.

Madagascar has been wrought by political instability since the beginning of 2009 when Rajoelina challenged the president and seized power in March with the help of dissident soldiers.

The turmoil has continued as Ravalomanana insists from exile that he remains president, and other political heavyweights jostle for position ahead of promised elections.

An end to the chaos, which has wrecked the island’s $390 million-a-year tourism sector, appeared near on Friday evening when United Nations envoy Drame Tiebile said the feuding parties had agreed to form an inclusive interim government.

However, Ratsiraka then wrote in a letter that the conditions were not right for a calm, honest and constructive dialogue and set down conditions for his party to resume talks.

The former leader, who fled the country after Ravalomanana was judged victor of disputed 2001 elections, demanded an amnesty for all his supporters imprisoned at the time on politically-motivated charges.

“Before any real negotiations to quell this crisis, (I demand) that all inquiries, decisions and judicial findings linked to the events of 2002 are purely and simply annulled and, in particular, those that were political,” Ratisraka wrote.

He reiterated his view that Ravalomanana’s rise to power had been a coup, and Rajoelina’s power-grab was no different.

Foreign leaders and regional blocs have branded the former disc jockey’s army-backed rise to power in March as unconstitutional. Several donors, including the International Monetary Fund, have suspended non-emergency aid.

Ratsiraka’s demands could set a precedent. Allies of Ravalomanana said on Sunday they expected conditions for his return to be met and for political prisoners detained since he fled to be liberated.

“If the conditions for Ravalomanana’s return are not discussed, or there is no agreement, then we will quit the negotiating table,” Raharianivo Andrianantoandro, spokesman for Ravalomanana’s political party, told Reuters.