Maputo — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) wants to hear a decision from Andry Rajoelina, the man who seized power in Madagascar in 2009, that he will not stand in the presidential elections scheduled for May, the SADC Executive Secretary, Tomas Salomao, told reporters on Thursday.
At an extraordinary summit held in Dar es Salaam in December, SADC decided that one of the measures that could help solve the crisis in Madagascar would be for neither of the two main rivals – Rajoelina and the man he overthrew, Marc Ravalomanana – to run in the elections.
Ravalomanana, who is currently living in exile in South Africa, accepted the SADC proposal, but the reaction of Rajoelina is not yet clear.
Rajoelina has been invited to a two day summit of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation which begins in Dar es Salaam on Thursday. He is expected to address the Troika on Friday.
"Our point of view is that neither of the two men should run for the Presidency", Salomao told the Mozambican journalists who are covering the summit. "President Marc Ravalomanana has given his position, and now we want to know what Andry Rajoelina thinks".
Rajoelina's position is regarded as crucial if free and credible elections are to be held in Madagascar, opening the way for Madagascar to return to full membership of organisations such as SADC and the African Union. If Rajoelina tries to cling on to power, while his main rival is unable to stand, then the elections are unlikely to be seen as credible.
As for Zimbabwe, Salomao insisted that elections should be held this year – but failure to approve a new constitution has thrown the elections into doubt. Elections in 2013 was "a point of principle, and I think it will be respected", said Salomao. "This is going to happen and the Zimbabweans know that elections are taking place in 2013".
But, under the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that established Zimbabwe's current coalition government, there are several conditions that should be met before elections are held. In particular, a new constitution must be drawn up and put to a referendum.
This should have happened last year. Negotiators from the three parties to the GPA – President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – agreed a draft constitution, but then ZANU-PF demanded last minute changes, in areas such as the powers of the President (ZANU-PF does not want them reduced), dual nationality, and the creation of a national prosecuting authority.
These demands infuriated both factions of the MDC. At the SADC heads of state summit held in Maputo last August, Zimbabwean Finance Minister and General Secretary of the main MDC faction, Tendai Biti, told reporters that, as far as the MDC was concerned, the constitution was a done deal.
"Three years were spent discussing the constitution," he pointed out, and the two MDCs did not accept ZANU-PF reopening those discussions. "When the ZANU-PF team negotiated with the MDCs, we assumed they had the authority from their party to do so".
Biti has also warned that Zimbabwe does not have enough money of its own to hold both a constitutional referendum and the elections. Assistance from the international community would therefore be necessary.
Salomao pledged that SADC will do all in its power to ensure that the Zimbabwean elections are indeed held this year. A report will be presented to the troika by South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as SADC facilitator on Zimbabwe.
"This process began after the 2008 elections, we have travelled this journey up until 2012, and now we have reached a decisive stage in which the Zimbabweans have to take full control of their destiny, and make decisions about who they want to govern them", said Salomao.
"We recommend that there be no further delays", he insisted. "We want free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe and to this end SADC needs to place its observers on the ground in due time".
The troika will also discuss the attempts to secure peace in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a rebellion by the M23 movement, widely believed to enjoy the support of the Rwandan government, has raged.
Salomao said the troika will assess the deployment of a neutral intervention force in the DRC, and analyse how SADC can work together with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
As for the unilateral ceasefire announced on Tuesday by the M23, Salomao said it was the result of the diplomatic work under way and of dialogue between the parties to the conflict.
"But this ceasefire and the end to military confrontation must be something sustainable that has come to stay", he insisted. "We don't want a ceasefire today and the resumption of hostilities in a week's time. We want a sustainable ceasefire so that people can resume their normal lives in the eastern DRC".