Mon, Aug 10, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Madagascan leaders sign political transition deal

AFP , MAPUTO, MADAGASCAR

Leaders of Madagascar’s main political movements yesterday signed a transition blueprint, ending months of crisis on the island nation that had led to international isolation and halts in foreign aid.

Madagascan leaders, including ousted president Marc Ravalomanana and strongman Andry Rajoelina, “agreed that the transition will last no longer [than] 15 months from the signature of the accord,” UN mediator Tiebile Drame said.

During that period, legislative and presidential elections will be held under international supervision “which will lead to the re-establishment of stable democratic institutions in Madagascar,” he said.

The composition of the transition government has yet to be decided, however, said former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who led the talks that began on Wednesday.

“They will reflect on it and make a decision later,” he told journalists.

The transition government is to include a president, vice president, prime minister and three deputy prime ministers.

Participants in the negotiations said talks on this question would resume later yesterday in the Mozambican capital.

Madagascar has become increasingly isolated since Ravalomanana was forced to abandon the presidency and flee in March following riots that left more than 100 dead, with the international community pushing for a return to constitutional order and suspending the bulk of its aid to one of the world’s poorest states.

Ravalomanana said he would not personally take part in the political transition in the island nation.

“In the interests of the nation, and following consultations, it seems reasonable to me to not participate personally in the transition,” he told journalists, adding that his party would take part in the transition institutions.

Under the terms of the accord, members of the transition government may not run in the elections, expect for its president.

Ravalomanana said, however, that he would return home to Madagascar under the terms of the accord, which grants him an amnesty, although he said he would wait until “the situation is favorable.”

The amnesty quashes his corruption conviction, but does not cover any potential charges relating to war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of human rights.

Ravalomanana has been living in exile in South Africa since fleeing Madagascar in March following the riots that left more than 100 dead, handing over power to the army, which then transferred it to his rival Rajoelina.

He was sentenced to four years in prison in June after being tried in absentia for a “conflict of interest” in the purchase of a presidential airplane — a scandal that helped crystalize opposition to him and led to the rise of Rajoelina to power.

Ravalomanana’s fate had dominated the internationally backed talks, which aimed to solve the wider dispute between him and Rajoelina that has unsettled the country since January.

Given the recurrent crises in the island nation, former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, still powerful powerbrokers in the country, were also invited to participate in the talks.

The issue of amnesty for former president Ratsiraka was resolved on Thursday.

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