SADC Troika will not recognise Madagascar's new leader

Friday, March 20, 2009

Swaziland - The Southern Africa Development Community's (SADC) Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation was held in Swaziland on Thursday to discuss the political and security situation in Madagascar.

In a communiqu, issued on Thursday the Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Organ said it "condemned in the strongest terms the unconstitutional actions that have led to the illegal ousting of the democratically elected president of a SADC member state".

The Extra-Ordinary Summit was chaired by King Mswati III, Chairperson of SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. South African Defence Minister Charles Nqakula also attended.

President Marc Ravalomanana handed power to a navy admiral earlier this week after a power struggle with the opposition on the Indian Ocean Island. The army in turn named opposition leader Andry Rajoelina the country's new leader.

A total of 135 people have died in the violence as a result of the power struggle between the two men in recent months.

"Under the circumstances, SADC does not and cannot recognise Mr Rajoelina as President of Madagascar because his appointment not only violates the Constitution of Madagascar and democratic principles, but violates the core principles and Treaty of SADC, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Charters," said the organ.

It called on the AU and the international community to put pressure to bear on the de facto authorities in Madagascar to return that country back to democratic and constitutional rule in the shortest time possible.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Organ Troika further called on all stakeholders to refrain from taking any actions that were unconstitutional, inconsistent with the democratic values of the region and the continent or lead to further loss of lives, injury or destruction of property.

The organ said SADC would continue to engage all concerned parties in Madagascar with a view to facilitating the efforts to peacefully resolve the current political crisis in the country.

Executive Secretary of SADC Tomaz Salamao was mandated to engage the AU, United Nations and all other role players to help define a comprehensive and coherent strategy that would lead to the resolution of the situation.

Mr Salamao is expected to report back to the Troika within seven days.

"In the event of non-cooperation and non-compliance by the de facto regime in Madagascar, the Summit of the Organ Troika shall recommend considering imposing appropriate sanctions and/or use all relevant resources available to restore order in Madagascar," said the communiqu,.

South African President and SADC Chairperson Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday 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 AU member to call for Madagascar's suspension from the bloc after the take over.

It called for Madagascar to be suspended from SADC and called on the international community to take action against the new government.

A SADC Troika Mission was undertaken on 9 February to assess the situation in Madagascar following the brief by the Prime Minister of Madagascar to the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ Troika on the sidelines of the AU Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

A preliminary mission had been undertaken by the SADC Executive Secretary on 6 February 2009.

A follow up mission comprising the Organ Troika Member States the Kingdom of Swaziland, the Republic of Mozambique and the Republic of Angola took place on 14 February.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit also noted that in an attempt to have insight of the political and security situation in the Republic of Madagascar, the Mission held consultations with the following stakeholders:

The mission observed there was a need to encourage political dialogue among all the stakeholders in Madagascar; for political tolerance and respect for the rule of law; to resolve the current political challenges through peaceful means other than resorting to violence and for respect for human rights.

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 citizens have not seen any trickle down from the tourism industry. The country remains one of the poorest in the world.