Ex-Madagascar president to return from exile

Mediation talks on the political crisis in Madagascar sponsored by regional body – Southern African Development Community – should allow ousted president Marc Ravalomanana’s return from exile by February 29, a close aide said on Wednesday.

Ravalomanana’s plane was turned back mid-air on Saturday when he tried to fly back home after nearly three years in exile, prompting a meeting in Pretoria with regional mediators the SADC.The SADC security Troika called for key reforms to be completed by end February, according to Ravalomanana’s top aide Mamy Rakotoarivelo, who heads the country’s Transitional Congress, an interim parliament.

“The meeting ended with the troika indicating that the process of social appeasement, the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles has to be executed and end at the latest on February 29, including the return of Ravalomanana,” said Rakotoarivelo.

SADC and South Africa’s foreign affairs ministry have not commented on the talks, but deputy foreign minister Marius Fransman on Tuesday lambasted both Ravalomanana and strongman Andry Rajoelina for their Saturday standoff.

The former president was ousted in an army-backed coup in 2009 by Andry Rajoelina, a former disk jockey-turned-politician.

SADC brokered a “roadmap” to peace in November last year, leaving Rajoelina at the head of a transitional government until elections in 2012.

Ravalomanana faces legal woes after being sentenced to life in prison and hard labour for the death of 30 opposition protesters killed by his presidential guard in February 2009.

But Rakotoarivelo said following the talks the former president would not be jailed and predicted an amnesty law would soon clear the path for Ravalomanana.

He boycotted the body’s opening together with 86 other lawmakers from Ravalomanana’s party on Monday in protest against Saturday’s airplane debacle.

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