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Madagascar’s Leader Rejects Call to Let Exiled Rival Return

Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina and the country’s security forces rejected a Southern African Development Community call to allow exiled former leader Marc Ravalomanana to return.

Ravalomanana faces “judicial affairs” if he comes back to the Indian Ocean island nation after being found guilty of the deaths of protesters after his guards fired on them in 2009, Rajoelina told reporters today in the capital, Antananarivo.

“There is no amnesty for blood crimes and nobody can put pressure on this part,” he said.

The refusal to agree to the SADC heads-of-state resolution after two years of negotiation may extend the country’s international isolation and a political crisis sparked when Rajoelina, a former DJ and mayor of the capital city, ousted Ravalomanana with the help of the military in March 2009. The coup led to Madagascar’s suspension from SADC and the African Union, and resulted in donors stopping aid that made up two-thirds of state revenue. SADC consists of 15 southern African governments.

The regional group on June 12 endorsed a roadmap for elections in Madagascar with some changes, including that Ravalomanana, who has been in exile in South Africa for two years, be allowed back.

Madagascar’s security forces are also against the former president’s return. The army and police are “strongly opposed” to the move as it may cause unrest, Andre Ndriarijaona, the head of the country’s army, told reporters today.

New Crisis

The transitional government will start the process to hold elections, even if the international community didn’t offer funding, Rajoelina said. The country is expected to hold elections within a year.

The government’s decision to block Ravalomanana’s return will lead to discredited elections and a new crisis in the country, Fetison Andrianirinia, a spokesman for the former president’s party, said by phone from Antananarivo.

“If they insist on moving toward elections in a unilateral manner, the international community will never approve them,” he said.

Madagascar is the world’s largest vanilla grower, while oil, nickel and titanium products have also attracted investor interest.

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