African Union suspends 'unconstitutional' regime
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The African Union has suspended Madagascar's membership, calling the country's new regime under opposition leader Andry Rajoelina 'unconstitutional'. Meanwhile, acting PM Monja Roindefo rejected EU claims that a coup took place.
Reuters - The African Union suspended Madagascar on Friday, the strongest condemnation yet by the international community after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina took power with the support of the army.
The AU decision echoed criticism by southern African bloc SADC, the European Union and United States. Weeks of political unrest in Madagascar have killed at least 135 people, devastated the economy and worried foreign investors.
"The council is of the opinion that what occurred in Madagascar enters the definition of unconstitutional change of government," said Burkina Faso's Ambassador Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, chairman of the AU's peace and security council.
"The council then decided to suspend the participation of Madagascar to the bodies and organs of the AU."
Madagascar's elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, was forced out on Tuesday after weeks of opposition protests that won the support of the military. Zidouemba said it amounted to a civilian and military coup on the giant Indian Ocean island.
"It can be interpreted as a coup," he said. "In this case, we have a case where a civilian and military coup has taken place in Madagascar."
The AU said the country's new administration had six months to call an election, as provided for by the Malagasy
constitution. Zidouemba said the pan-African body would meet at a later date to discuss possibly imposing sanctions.
Roindefo Monja, prime minister in Rajoelina's transitional administration, told Reuters the new government would plead its case before the AU and the international community.
"What can they say about a fight for liberty and democracy? What crime has been committed?" he said by telephone.
"We will explain to the whole world our cause ... The people demanded liberty and the military rallied to the popular movement but it did not seize power ... We are confident the international community will understand," he said.
Monja added that he did not expect donor nations to cut aid, saying they were interested in Madagascar's long term stability.
At 34, Rajoelina is Africa's newest and youngest president. He will be inaugurated on Saturday.
Ravalomanana handed power to the military, and they in turn appointed Rajoelina. Sacked as mayor of Antananarivo, Rajoelina is nicknamed "TGV" after the fast French train because of his rapid-fire personality.
The southern African grouping SADC has refused to recognise Rajoelina while Norway, which gives about $14 million in annual aid, has frozen funding. Late on Thursday, the EU Presidency also denounced what had happened as a coup d'etat.