New leader rejected

marc_ravalomanana.jpgMarc Ravalomanana
Mbabane - Southern Africa will not recognise Madagascar's new leader, an army-backed politician who ousted an elected president, key regional leaders said on Thursday.

After a mini-summit about the Indian Ocean island, in Swaziland on
Thursday, the main decision-making committee of the Southern African
Development Community also urged the African Union and the
international community not to recognise Andry Rajoelina as president
and called for a return to "democratic and constitutional rule in the
shortest time possible".

After months of street protests, Marc Ravalomanana resigned as
Madagascar’s president on Tuesday and placed power in the hands of the
military. Within hours, the military announced it was making opposition
leader Andry Rajoelina president.

The regional leaders meeting on Thursday said that if Rajoelina refuses
to relinquish power to Ravalomanana, the bloc would recommend imposing

Madagascar is a member of the regional bloc. Thursday’s meeting,
chaired by Swazi King Mswati III, included Mozambican President Armando
Guebuza, South African Defense Minister Charles Nqakula, and the bloc’s
executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao.

Earlier on Thursday, Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande
called Rajoelina’s coming to power in Madagascar "a setback and danger
to the entrenchment of democracy and constitutional rule on the
continent which should not be allowed to take root".

Calls for suspension

In a statement in government papers on Thursday, Pande also called for
the suspension of Madagascar from both the Southern African Development
Community and the African Union. The AU was to have held its annual
meeting in Madagascar later this year.

An AU committee was to meet on Friday, to examine whether the events in
Madagascar constituted a coup, which would lead to Madagascar’s
automatic suspension.

Rajoelina has accused his ousted rival of misspending public funds and
undermining democracy, and said Wednesday his rise was a victory for
"true democracy" over dictatorship. He had promised new elections
within two years.

France, Madagascar’s former colonial power and current main donor, said that two years was "too long" to wait for elections.

Ravalomanana had accused Rajoelina of seeking power by unconstitutional
means, since under the constitution the opposition leader was too young
to become president.

Some of Rajoelina’s anti-government protests had led to deadly clashes.
The deaths of at least 25 civilians last month cost Ravalomanana the
backing of many in the military, and a mutiny spread and gained popular

News24/Associated Press (AP)

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