Southern African leaders suspend Madagascar

SADC (Southern African Development Community) leaders meeting in Swaziland suspended Madagascar from the regional bloc and called on its new leader, Andry Rajoelina, to vacate the presidency.


AFP - Southern African leaders on Monday suspended Madagascar from a regional bloc and demanded the reinstatement of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) said the vast island nation was immediately suspended from the 15-nation group, until constitutional order is restored.

"The extraordinary summit suspends Madagascar from all community institutions and organs until the return of the country to constitutional order," SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told journalists.

The summit also "urged the former mayor of Antananarivo, Mr Andry Rajoelina, to vacate the office of the president as a matter of urgency paving the way for unconditional reinstatement of President Ravalomanana."

Ravalomanana was forced to resign as president of the troubled Indian Ocean island by Rajoelina on March 17, and SADC warned it would consider further action if its demands are not met.

"In the event of non-compliance with the above decisions, SADC shall in collaboration with the African Union and the United Nations consider other options to restore constitutional normalcy," said Salomao.

SADC also called on the international community to shun Rajoelina and apply pressure on him to return the country to constitutional order as soon as possible.

Ravalomanana's supporters are demanding the return of their leader who resigned after the sustained campaign by his rival Rajoelina who accused him of running a dictatorship while the people starved.

Last weekend, the 34-year-old Rajoelina was sworn in as the Indian Ocean island's transitional leader with the backing of the army, but Ravalomanana, United States and the European Union have said his takeover was a coup.

The African Union has also suspended the crisis-stricken nation from the 53-member body.

The crisis in Madagascar overshadowed talks on rescuing Zimbabwe's economy, and leader put off for two weeks any firm commitments to beginning to meet a request for 8.5 billion dollars in aid.

Zimbabwe has sought about two billion dollars in aid and loans as a down payment on its economic recovery scheme, but so far has had little luck in swaying multilateral lenders like the International Monetary Fund or major western donors.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said he remained optimistic that international aid would start flowing once the IMF releases a report following a mission to Harare earlier this month.

"I am absolutely positive that they will write a report that says look, Zimbabwe is bankable, there is a new brand that is being created here," Biti told reporters.

"They expressed great pleasure with our macroeconomic framework," he said.

SADC, which includes some of the world's poorest countries, has not yet made any specific offers other than agreeing to press the IMF and the World Bank to extend loans while urging western countries to end sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle.

The summit heaped praise on Zimbabwe, where long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai last month joined Mugabe in a unity government.

"We continue to be happily impressed by the progress made in the formation and operationalisation of the inclusive government," Swazi King Mswati III said.

"However, the greatest challenge Zimbabwe is now facing is the recovery of their economy."

Zimbabwe's economy has been in freefall for nearly a decade, with record hyperinflation, unemployment at 94 percent and a collapse of services which resulted in a deadly cholera epidemic.

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