SADC troika to meet over Madagascar

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pretoria - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation will on Thursday meet in Mbabane, Swaziland, following the situation in Madagascar.

"The SADC Organ Troika meeting is convened specifically to discuss the current situation and developments in Madagascar following the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana on Tuesday and the hand-over of power to the military," said the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.

According to the department, Defence Minister Charles Nqakula will lead the South African delegation to the meeting.

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 as the country's new leader.

In response to the developments, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday that SADC would "never countenance the unconstitutional transfer of power from a democratically-elected government".

"In this regard, SADC urges 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," the President said.

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

Zambia on Wednesday became the first African Union (AU) member to call for Madagascar's suspension from the bloc after the take over.

Zambia said Madagascar should also be suspended SADC and called on the international community to take action against the new government, headed by Mr Ravalomanana's arch rival Mr Rajoelina.

The AU's Peace and Security Council is also scheduled to discuss the situation in Madagascar at a meeting at its Addis Ababa headquarters on Thursday.

Trouble has been brewing in Madagascar since January, when Mr Ravalomanana sacked Mr Rajoelina from his post in the capital.

Mr Rajoelina, a former DJ and media entrepreneur, tapped into the rising frustration in the country over high food prices and service delivery to rally support against the president. He set up a parallel government and led massive street protests against his rival.

Over 100 people were killed in the protests, culminating in a demonstration outside the presidential palace in February when a further 23 were killed.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet with a population of around 20 million, a rich cultural history and breathtaking natural diversity.

In the relative stability of the last eight years, the country's tourism sector has boomed, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars.

However most ordinary Malagasies have not seen any trickle down from the tourism industry. The country remains one of the poorest in the world.