Madagascar: A historic peace deal already compromised by Rajoelina’s position?

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been able to broker a power sharing deal between rivaling Madagascar leaders, ousted President Marc Ravalomanana and military-backed Mr. Andry Rajoelina. Details of the unity government are yet to be released, but according to the United Nations, the two men will have decisive roles in running the country until legislative and presidential elections are held next year. The accord comes after days of diplomatic negotiations in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.

Although Mr. Rajoelina insists that “there has not yet been any discussion about the allocation of seats”, participants at the Maputo summit have indicated the unity government, which is expected to be established by September, will have a president and a vice president as well as a prime minister supported by three deputy prime ministers. There will also be 28 ministerial positions to be shared among the parties involved including a legislature. Under the agreement, the transition period should not exceed fifteen months from the signature of the accord. Rajoelina had promised to hold elections by the end of 2010.

The power-sharing deal was supervised by the former Mozambican leader, Joaquim Chissano, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and it involved Mr. Rajoelina, Mr. Ravalomanana, and former Madagascar presidents, Mr. Didier Ratsiraka and Mr. Albert Zafy.

Despite Mr. Ravalomanana’s party crucial role in the transition process, the ousted president who has been living in exile in South Africa since March does has shown little interest in returning to power. Talking to reporters, the ex president is quoted as saying that: “In the interests of the nation, and following consultations, it seems reasonable to me not to participate personally.”

Deal in danger

Mr. Ravalomanana has been granted an amnesty from a conviction for abuse of power and handed a fine of $70m by the court in Antananarivo. The power-sharing accord also grants amnesty to former president Mr. Ratsiraka, who has been living in exile in France. Mr. Ravalomanana told reporters he would return to Madagascar when the political “situation is favourable”.

But upon returning home Sunday, Mr. Rajoelina is reported to have insisted that Ravalomanana’s amnesty does not cover all crimes committed under his orders; in reference to the presidential guard’s shooting of civilians during a demonstration early this year. Observers have indicated that this position could endanger the deal as Mr. Rajoelina’s remarks is a clear indication of his disagreement of Mr. Ravalomanana’s return to Madagascar.

Civil unrest rocked the small African country when Mr. Ravalomanana was accused by Mr. Rajoelina of tyranny, corruption and inadequacy. Mr, Rajoelina resting on his accusations, overthrew Mr. Ravalomana with the help of the military, drawing disrepute from the African Union and the international community: The power struggle led to the cut of foreign aid, civil unrest, deaths, and violent riots that affected the island’s tourist industry.

After harsh French colonial rule, which included the bloody suppression of an uprising in 1947, Madagascar gained independence in 1960. But the military seized power in the early 1970s with the aim of achieving a socialist paradise, howbeit, the country has failed to achieve socio-economic stability as a result of poor governance.

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