5 February 2009

Madagascar: Ban to Send Envoy to See How Political Tensions Can Be Eased

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today he will dispatch a senior United Nations official to Madagascar, where serious unrest has led to the death of dozens of people, to explore how political tensions there can be alleviated.

At the invitation of the Government of the island nation, he is sending Haile Menkerios, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, "to assess the situation in the country and explore what the United Nations could do to help avert further violence and contribute towards peace and stability," according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Menkerios will visit Madagascar from 7 to 10 February and will hold meetings with Government officials and others concerned, UN Spokesperson Maria Okabe said.

According to media reports, at least 68 people died in riots that erupted last week in the wake of a dispute between the country's President, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, the Mayor of its largest city, Anatananarivo.

Following that violence, Mr. Ban called on the Malagasy parties to protect civilians, and offered UN support to help foster reconciliation in the country, where the Organization has been assisting in relief efforts in the aftermath of two recent devastating cyclones.

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