SIGNIFICANT progress has been made in the ongoing efforts to resolve political crisis in Madagascar, according to a joint statement issued following talks between President Jakaya Kikwete and President Andry Rajoelina in Dar es Salaam on Friday.
The talks were a follow-up to the recent extra-ordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that deliberated on the political crisis in the Indian Ocean island country.
President Kikwete as the Chairman of SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation was assigned to meet parties to the crisis on the implementation of SADC's roadmap for peace in Madagascar.
"President Kikwete and Rajoelina held in-depth discussions on the conclusions of the Dar es Salaam SADC Summit. The talks were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere and significant progress has been made.
"The two leaders agreed to have further consultations with relevant stakeholders prior to meeting again before the end of the month to conclude on the matter," read the joint statement. On Monday, President Kikwete met with former President of Madagascar Marc Ravalomanana to discuss decisions of the SADC Summit, who on the following day officially announced his decision not to contest in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Mr Ravalomana said he plans to return home and concentrate in other activities, including business. President Rajoelina, according to the statement, has not formally announced his decision on the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for July, next year.
He, however, commended the recent SADC Summit for re-affirming the dates for the elections and for calling the respective parties to respect the same. Other crucial aspects of SADC's roadmap on Madagascar include provision of a general amnesty to domestic and external opponent of Rajoelina (38), a former mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo, who became president in March 2009, following the political crisis.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Benard Membe, told the 'Sunday News' on Friday that SADC and Tanzania in particular expects that President Rajoelina's opponents would be allowed to return home.
Madagascar has been mired in political uncertainity since 2009, when Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana, who was later sentenced in absentia to life in prison for killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the run-up to his removal. The political crisis in Madagascar has adversely affected the economy, driving away tourists and foreign companies that might have invested in its oil, gold, chrome and nickel reserves.