SA to participate in Madagascar's peace process

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa will participate in the facilitation of the peace process in Madagascar, Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Thursday.

"Cabinet approved South Africa's participation in the facilitation of the peace process in Madagascar. 

"South Africa will be represented by Mr Charles Nqakula (Former Safety and Security Minister) in the facilitation process," said Mr Maseko, following an ordinary meeting of cabinet.

This comes after the leaders agreed on Sunday for a 31-member unity government in a power-sharing deal that would cede control of the exotic Indian Ocean island to an interim government, with elections in 2010.

Under the auspices of Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique, and other international mediators, four previous Malagasy heads of state agreed in Maputo on the formation of a transitional government to organise presidential elections by the end of 2010.

Earlier agreements have fallen through, but if this bargain holds up, it will bring to an end seven violent months in which President Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown by Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo.

Mr Rajoelina became president with military backing. But the international community including SADC has refused to recognise Mr Rajoelina, saying his takeover was illegal.

The Sunday agreement also forbids any member of the current transitional government, other than its head (Rajoelina) from standing as a candidate in the 2010 presidential election.

It will be recalled that the international community has consistently called for a return to constitutional rule on the island.

The agreement in Maputo has been welcomed and is widely considered a milestone in the return to peace and stability that the population has been deprived of since January.

Madagascar, located roughly 300 miles east of Africa, is the world's fourth-largest island. It is known for incredible biodiversity. Some 20 million people live on the island, more than half surviving on less than $1 a day. 

The political turmoil in the past months has caused the cancellation of textile orders and crippled tourism.