OUSTED Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana will not run for office in elections scheduled for May next year as recommended by SADC to allow restoration of peace and stability in his country.
Mr Ravalomanana, who resigned under pressure in March 2009 in what was largely viewed as a coup d'etat and was forced to live in exile in South Africa since then, announced the decision in Dar es Salaam after consultations with the Chairman of the SADC's Troika on Peace, Defence and Security, President Jakaya Kikwete.
He told journalists that he respected SADC and Troika and that his decision was made with national interests at heart. Mr Ravalomanana expressed hope that his opponent, President Andry Rajoelina, would also agree with SADC's recommendations provided in the Malagasy Roadmap, for the good of their country and its people.
The former president said he was ready to return home and rejoin his family he sorely missed and partake in the revival of his country's ailing economy as well as be part of efforts to restore peace and stability. "I have agreed not to contest. I am doing this for my country and people.
I have decided to go back home in peace to work with the people to reconstruct our country and the economy," he said while calling for help to enable him return home and live there in peace. He said Madagascar was in a very difficult situation - economically and security wise and urged the international community and the world at large to come forward to save the country. "It is time for us to work together for the betterment of our country," he said.
Mr Ravalomanana, however, said that the decision does not pull the curtains on his political career and that he may consider contesting for the highest office in his country in the future. President Kikwete commended Mr Ravalomanana for his wise decision and expressed hope that the Malagasy government would allow him to return home unconditionally and guarantee his security as provided for in the roadmap.
Mr Kikwete said it was decided during the community's summit in Maputo that the two leaders should not contest for the presidency to give the country a chance at restoring peace and harmony. "The idea was to create an atmosphere of harmony because the community believed if the two contested, then the elections might be marred by violence," he said, adding that the summit reiterated its position that amnesty should be extended to all people in exile including Mr Ravalomanana.
President Kikwete, however, expressed concern that the Malagasy government has been restricting Mr Ravalomanana's return giving him a chance to do so after the elections. "Why choose time for him to go back home? He has the right to return to his homeland just like other people who were in exile such as former president Didier Ratsiraka who is already back home," said Mr Kikwete while cautioning that failure by the government to guarantee Mr Ravalomanana's security would lead to intervention by SADC.
During the SADC Extra-Ordinary Summit held in Dar es Salaam last week, President Kikwete was tasked with consulting the two rivals and communicate the community's humble request to them. He said he held lengthy discussions with Mr Ravalomanana on Monday while he had been in constant consultations with President Rajoelina and that he will meet the latter in due time.