Madagascar’s Rajoelina in a corner after AU suspension for ‘coup’ (Lead)

March 20th, 2009 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Marc Ravalomanana Addis Ababa/Antananarivo, March 20 (DPA) Madagascar’s new leader was in a corner Friday after the African Union (AU) suspended the country over his “coup” and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it was planning sanctions.
The chairman of the AU Peace and Security Council, Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, said Rajoelina’s army-backed arrival to power through the streets constituted a “civilian and military coup”.

Marc Ravalomanana resigned as president Tuesday after months of mass protests.

He handed over power to the military, who then gave it to Rajoelina, who was confirmed as interim president by the country’s top court a day later.

Zidouemba said Madagascar had six months to organise elections or face sanctions on its leaders. Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital Antananarivo, has given himself two years to hold elections.

The AU suspension came as a growing number of countries vowed not to recognise Rajoelina’s leadership.

The Southern African Development Community, the 15-country regional economic grouping of which Madagascar is a member, Thursday said Rajoelina’s “illegal ousting of the democratically-elected president” of Madagascar was “unconstitutional”.

South Africa’s Defence Minister Charles Nqakula said Friday SADC would meet later this month to discuss sanctions, even as executive secretary Tomaz Salamoa led a team to Madagascar for talks with the new leadership.

SADC wants the president of the national assembly, and not Rajoelina, to replace Ravalomanana until new elections, as provided for when the president steps down in Madagascar’s constitution.

The US said Thursday it was reviewing relations with Madagascar following the “undemocratic” transfer of power.

Germany also denounced the handover and called for a return to democracy on the island while South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said “We don’t support those who take power through unconstitutional means. ..so we will not recognise this government”.

Rajoelina swept to power this week after the army leadership took his side in his two-month power struggle with Ravalomanana, whom the opposition accused of authoritarianism and misuse of public funds.

Over 100 people were killed in near-daily street protests, which brought the economy of the impoverished island of around 20 million people to its knees.

Ravalomanana, who was re-elected to a second five-year term in 2006, lost support over use of lethal force on protesters. His whereabouts are unknown.

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