Madagascar's rival leaders in new talks on unity government

Leaders of Madagascar’s rival political factions on Wednesday met in South Africa in a fresh bid to forge a deal on a unity government to end 15 months of crisis in the island nation.

Madagascar’s strongman Andry Rajoelina seized control of the vast Indian Ocean island in March 2009 after weeks of sometimes violent street protests, ousting Marc Ravalomanana with the military’s blessing.

Former Presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy have held repeated rounds of talks with the Ravalomanana and Rajoelina factions.

The four political leaders had signed a power-sharing accord that was later spurned by Rajoelina, prompting the African Union to slap travel and economic bans on him and scores of his backers last month.

Chissano met late on Tuesday with Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, who is living in exile in South Africa.

He also held talks with the other two leaders on Wednesday.

Former colonial power France and the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) are mediating in the talks, which aim to set up a unity government that would lead Madagascar toward fresh elections, a source within Ravalomanana’s movement said.

Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital, in November inked a power-sharing agreement with Ravalomanana and the other two former presidents at the African Union’s Addis Ababa headquarters.
Under the agreement the 35-year-old Rajoelina was to retain the presidency but with two “co-presidents” from the other political movements.

The four rivals also agreed to establish a transitional institution ahead of elections.

But Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, has since spurned the accords, sacked a Prime Minister named after a compromise with his rivals and announced that the country would hold elections.

Disagreements between the four leaders on the allocation of seats in the agreed unity government also wrecked the implementation of their agreements.

Those disputes are the centrepiece of Wednesday’s talks, and pressure for a deal to stick is now building from Madagascar’s military.

Security chiefs earlier this month called on the political leaders to settle their differences and chart a way out of the crisis.

That statement came out just days after the armed forces minister was sacked and Prime Minister Camille Vital took over the post, citing “rumours surrounding the army, which triggered fears about state governance.”

Senior military officers who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said the sacked minister had intended to stage a new coup to steer the country out of crisis.

Source: SAPA

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