, ADDIS ABABA, Nov 7 – Madagascar’s top four political figures — including ousted President Marc Ravalomanana — on Saturday signed an agreement on sharing power ahead of elections next year.
Andry Rajoelina, the self-proclaimed president of the Indian Ocean island nation who took power in March, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy each put their names to the accord.
Hours earlier it was announced the four had reached a consensus that would see Rajoelina confirmed as the transitional president but with two "co-presidents" from other political movements.
"The Madagascan leaders have managed to reach an accord on putting in place a transitional charter," said UN-appointed mediator Tiebile Drame.
"They agreed on the leadership of transitional institutions, including the presidency, and on power sharing in the government and other institutions," he said.
Rajoelina, a 35-year-old former disc jockey, toppled Ravalomanana with the army’s backing on March 17 but has since failed to win the recognition of the international community.
The coup came as a result of months of sometimes violent demonstrations that left the island in diplomatic and institutional limbo, with parallel administrations claiming legitimacy.
Drame said there would be "a consensual president, two consensual co-presidents, a consensus prime minister and a national unity government."
The four leaders, meeting in the Ethiopian capital since Tuesday, agreed in August to a 15-month transition period but had since sparred over the details of power-sharing.
Speaking after the agreement was announced, Ravalomanana told reporters he hoped the country could now move foward.
"We’ll do our best to improve the situation in Madagascar and work together… I’m confident it will work," he said.
He added: "The relation (between myself and Rajoelina) is getting better, it is improving every day. The only way to solve the problem in Madagascar is to talk and I’m glad he (Rajoelina) understood.
"I will help him, I have a son like him," he said.
AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra, speaking at the signing, said the parties had "assumed their historic responsibilities and put back on track the inclusive transitional process towards free and transparent elections."
"This acceptance has marked the turning point in the negotiations in order to overcome this stalemate," he said earlier.
Chief mediator, the former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, described the talks as "long and painful", adding that the agreement was a only a first step towards a better future for Madagascar.
Despite the accord, a member of the mediating team indicated that there could be further disagreement over the distribution of 31 ministerial posts, in particular justice, which has been demanded by both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina.
"The allocation of the justice ministry to one movement will be decided at the level of the presidential council. As for defence, for for other reasons, it will be necessary to find someone neutral for this post," the mediator told AFP.