, PARIS, May 14 – Madagascar’s ousted president Marc Ravalomanana said Thursday he plans to return to his troubled country, perhaps in the coming weeks, and asserted that he remains head of state.
Speaking from South Africa where he sought refuge after stepping down in March, Ravalomanana told Radio France Internationale that he was seeking international support for his return to power.
"I will go back in a few weeks, maybe," he said. "I am still the president of the Madagascar republic. There is only democratically-elected president and that’s me."
Ravalomanana said his decision on March 17 to hand over power to an army-backed council headed by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina was to "avert a bloodbath" and save his family.
But he rejected suggestion that his rival Rajoelina enjoyed the backing of the army, saying his support base was "a small group" of 150 to 200 people.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community named a special envoy for Madagascar this week to push for the peaceful return of Ravalomanana and new elections.
Rajoelina said Wednesday he would not run in the presidential election if the other three former heads of state also bowed out of the race.
France said such a decision would help solve the political crisis on the Indian Ocean island that flared up at the beginning of the year.