PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete and President Andry Rajoelina of the Transitional Government of Madagascar held crucial talks aimed at ending the over three-year political crisis in the Indian Ocean island country.
"These are very crucial talks on the plight of Madagascar. "We are, however, optimistic that the talks will lead into positive settlement of the political crisis in Madagascar," the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe, told the 'Daily News on Saturday.'
Mr Membe said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in its recent extra-ordinary summit assigned President Kikwete, as the Chairman of the SADC Troika Peace, Defence and Security to look for solutions on the crisis, including holding meetings with rival parties and other stakeholders.
He said the Troika was persuading key rivals, President Rajoelina and former president Marc Ravolomanana not to run in the next presidential election scheduled for July, next year. Earlier this week, former Madagascar president Ravalomanana announced that he will run for the office in next year's presidential election, which was a major step in implementation of SADC's road map.
Mr Membe said the Troika was now persuading President Rajoelina to do the same. He said other crucial aspects of the road map include provision of general amnesty to domestic and external opponents of Rajoelina. SADC expects that the opponents would be allowed to return home.
Madagascar has been mired in political uncertainty since 2009 when Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana, who was later sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the run-up to his removal. The political crisis in Madagascar adversely affected the economy, driving away tourists and foreign companies that might have invested in its oil, gold, chrome and nickel reserves.
In September, last year, the country's main political parties signed a road map after talks mediated by SADC, which confirmed Rajoelina as president and allowed for the unconditional return of Ravalomanana from self-imposed exile in South Africa.
But the implementation of the plan was beset by disagreements, including whether the road map allowed Ravalomanana to be imprisoned if he returned home. Ravalomanana said he was preparing to return to Madagascar to seek peace and work together with the people in the reconstruction of the country.