Southern African group rejects Madagascar’s new leader

March 20th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Marc Ravalomanana Johannesburg, March 20 (DPA) The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has rejected Andry Rajoelina as Madagascar’s interim president, saying the manner of his coming to power was “unconstitutional” and called on the international community to follow suit.
The 15-country regional economic grouping, of which Madagascar is a member, met in Swaziland Thursday to discuss Rajoelina’s bloodless army-backed ouster of Marc Ravalomanana from the presidency this week.

After losing control of the government and the army, Ravalomanana, 59, gave up power on Tuesday to a military directorate, which in turn passed it to his arch-rival. Madagascar’s constitutional court on Wednesday ruled that the double transfer was legal and that Rajoelina was the country’s rightful interim leader.

But SADC, whose security panel is chaired by Swazi King Mswati III, 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”.

“In 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 and the United Nations charters.”

SADC urged the “African Union and the international community not to recognise the appointment of Mr Rajoelina and to put pressure on the de facto authorities of Madagascar to return that country back to democratic and constitutional rule in the shortest time possible”.

The United States has also called Rajoelina’s elevation to the presidency “an undemocratic transfer of power”.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council is meeting later Friday to formulate its reaction.

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 a lot of support over the shooting death by security forces on Feb 7 of 28 unarmed protesters.

On his first day in office Thursday, Rajoelina dissolved the National Assembly and Senate in advance of new elections he says will be held within two years - a time frame many deem too long.

Ravalomanana’s whereabouts have been unknown since Tuesday. The new president has said he should be prosecuted for alleged crimes, including the use of lethal force against unarmed opposition demonstrators in recent weeks.

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