9 May 2002

Madagascar: US Hopes Wade's Second Round of Talks will Resolve Crisis

Washington, DC — As tensions mount in Madagascar the U.S. government is clinging to the hope that new talks in Senegal will break the political impasse on the island nation. An economic blockade is squeezing the capital, Antananarivo, while the governors of four of the island's six provinces who back incumbent president Didier Ratsiraka are threatening secession in protest at the investiture of opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana.

"The United States applauds the efforts of President Wade of Senegal," the White House said in a statement, Wednesday. The Dakar Accord signed April 18 "by both Mr Ratsiraka and Mr Ravalomanana... provided a sound framework for an open, transparent and democratic solution to Madagascar's political crisis." President Bush, "welcomes the agreement to return to Dakar, May 13, to find a broad-based, permanent solution."

The U.S. is prepared to support "whatever arrangement they decide would work," said a State Department official speaking to allAfrica on background. The U.S. has respected both court decisions on the contested election despite the fact that the rulings were radically different from each other, "because we didn't want to undermine the rule of law."

Two weeks ago, a peace deal brokered in Dakar, Senegal, seemed to promise a solution. Then last week, the High Constitutional Court's recount of the December 16 poll results - provided for in the Dakar agreement - found that challenger Ravalomanana had defeated Ratsiraka, just as he had been claiming since January.

As a result, Ravalomanana considered himself elected. Having voluntarily renounced the title of 'president' before the recount in line with the agreement, he was sworn in again on Monday and is continuing with his appointed government. Ratsiraka, denying that the Dakar deal promised a recount, accuses Ravalomanana of violating the spirit of their deal and has refused to lift the blockade on the capital. Politically motivated killings continue.

The OAU which facilitated the Dakar talks is reportedly embarrassed by the collapse of the peace agreement while those African leaders who were in Dakar to support the process are said to be unhappy at Ratsiraka's rejection of what all parties agreed at the time was an equitable solution to the conflict.


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