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SADC Won’t Intervene to Return Ravalomanana to Madagascar

The South African Development Community won’t intervene to secure the return of Madagascar’s exiled former president, Marc Ravalomanana, to the Indian Ocean island nation, said the regional body’s envoy, Leonardo Simao.

“SADC does not have the authority to annul a sentence imposed on a citizen,” Simao told reporters yesterday in Antananarivo, the Madagascan capital. “SADC respects the sovereignty and the responsibilities of member states.”

Heads-of-state from SADC, a grouping of 15 countries including South Africa, called for Madagascar to allow Ravalomanana’s “unconditional” return as part of efforts to end a political crisis sparked by him being ousted by Andry Rajoelina with the help of the military in 2009. Rajoelina’s government warned that Ravalomanana will be arrested if he returns after being found guilty of the deaths of protesters.

The refusal to agree to the June 12 SADC resolution after two years of negotiation may extend the country’s international isolation and discredit elections expected within a year. The 2009 coup led to Madagascar’s suspension from SADC and the African Union and led to donors stopping aid that made up two-thirds of state revenue.

Ravalomanana said he won’t sign an SADC mediation deal unless he is allowed to return to the country without being arrested. “The SADC heads of state were clear that my return is unconditional,” he said by phone from Johannesburg today.

Madagascar will hold “at least one election” this year, Prime Minister Camille Vital told reporters in Antananarivo. The country is expected to hold both parliamentary and presidential votes.

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

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