ANTANANARIVO, October 15-The African Union on Wednesday decried an “unacceptable provocation” by exiled Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana whose cloak and dagger return to the crisis racked island threatened to spark fresh instability.,
Sixty four year old— who was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment with hard labour — returned unannounced to Madagascar on Monday, five years after a coup forced him to flee frist to Swaziland then South Africa.
He was promptly arrested by a phalanx of heavily armed special forces, but not before telling supporters that he still held “lots of power” and that his presidential successor is “not the people’s choice”.
The African Union warned that Ravalomanana’s stance could undermine successful 2013 elections, which were designed to resolve a crisis that brought international isolation and trashed the Malagasy economy.
AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma “firmly condemned” Ravalomanana’s comments and called on all parties to do their part to guarantee Madagascar’s “long and difficult transition”.
“Calling into question the legitimacy of Malagasy institutions, resulting from free and democratic elections recognised by the international community, is an unacceptable provocation,” the statement said.
Ravalomanana has been taken to the idyllic but remote military town of Antsiranana in the far north of the country.
In a statement, Prime Minister Roger Kolo told AFP that the government “received reliable information about the existence of threats” to Ravalomanana’s life and to public order.
“He is in a place worthy of his standing and is in good health, with a doctor accompanying him,” Kolo said.
Ihanta Randroamandranto, a member of Ravalomanana’s party, told AFP the former president’s family “has left to visit him at Diego Suarez (Antsiranana).”
Ravalomanana’s ouster, exile and fierce personal rivalry with his immediate successor Andry Rajoelina polarised the Indian Ocean island nation, which is highly dependent on coffee, vanilla and other agricultural products.
The military remains largely beyond civilian control and the coup-prone country of 20 million people lost $8 billion (6.2 billion euros) and tens of thousands of jobs as a result of the most recent crisis.
Since the election, international donors have signalled their willingness to do business with the new government, an important step if the island is to realise untapped gas and oil wealth.
The United States recently allowed Madagascar back in to a lucrative trade pact that gives preferential access to US markets.
– ‘Peace or trouble’ –
President Hery Rajaonarimampianina has toured the world seeking to bring investors and jobs to Madagascar.
But that drive may now be on hold.
“It looks like the crisis is not really over,” said author and political analyst Toavina Ralambomahay.
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. No one can predict what will happen, will there be peace or will there be trouble.”
Much will now depend on the government’s response, according to political analyst Serge Zafimahova.
“They have two options. If they insist on shutting out the ex president we can expect that the weeks to come will bring crisis that leads to his return (to power).
“The second option would be that the government acknowledges the need for national reconciliation. That’s the only way out of this crisis.”