Motlanthe expresses concern over Madagascar

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pretoria - President Kgalema Motlanthe has joined leaders of the African Union (AU) in expressing regret at the resignation of Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana and the handing over of power to the Military Directorate.

"Of particular concern are the unconstitutional attempts undertaken by the opposition that led to the resignation of the democratically elected President of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) member country.

"South Africa and SADC will never countenance the unconstitutional transfer of power from a democratically elected government in any of our member-states," said President Motlanthe, who is also the chairperson of the SADC.

President Ravalomanana handed power to a navy admiral on Tuesday after a power struggle with the opposition on the Indian Ocean Island.

Following the resignation, the army has named opposition leader Andry Rajoelina the country's new leader.

The move appears to signal the end of a power struggle between the two men that has led to violence resulting in the death of 135 people, crippling the tourism industry and scaring off foreign investors over recent months.

President Motlanthe continued urging all role players in Madagascar to resolve their differences through negotiations aimed at ensuring that a solution is found, which is constitutional and will restore peace and stability on the island, as a matter of priority.

Accordingly, he called on all stakeholders to refrain from taking any action that may be unconstitutional, inconsistent with the democratic values of the region and the continent or lead to further loss of lives, injury or destruction of property.

"SADC will continue to monitor the situation closely. In this context the SADC Organ Troika of Politics, Defence and Security will be convening in Mbabane, Swaziland on Thursday to review the situation in Madagascar," the President said.

Mr Ravalomanana ceded power to a group of officers headed by Vice Admiral Hyppolite Ramarosan.

However, they refused to take over and offered authority to Mr Rajoelina. The 34-year-old disc jockey turned politician is expected to head an interim government which will organise presidential elections within two years.

Events moved rapidly after Mr Rajoelina installed himself in the presidential offices in the capital Antananarivo on Tuesday. Thousands of people turned out to show him support.

The African Union on Tuesday condemned what has taken place and is demanding Mr Ravalomanana's safety be guaranteed and demanded that the constitution be respected.

The pan-African body requested that all necessary measures "betaken to ensure the safety of the president and his family, his associates, respect for individual and collective freedom and prevent any act of violence or intimidation and protect property," said a communique issued after an emergency meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council.

In the communique, the AU demanded that the Malagasy parties "comply scrupulously with the provisions of the constitution of Madagascar on interim arrangements in the event of resignation."

It urged the Malagasy parties "to uphold the spirit of dialogue and compromise in order to find, as soon as possible, a peaceful and consensual solution to the crisis, with the assistance of representatives of the international community in Antananarivo, in particular, the special envoys of the AU, UN and La Francophonie."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is gravely concerned about the situation.

"The Secretary-general is gravely concerned about the evolving developments in Madagascar," Mr Ban's press office said in a statement.

Mr Ban urged all parties concerned "to act responsibly to ensure stability and a smooth transition through democratic means.

"This peaceful path can only be the result of transitional arrangements arrived at by consensus and enjoying wide support."

The secretary-general called on all concerned, "particularly the police and the army, to ensure the security of the population and work together toward a non-violent resolution of the crisis," the statement said.