Ousted Madagascar leader arrives in Seychelles for talks

By AFP
By AFP

8/7/2012 7:20:02 PM -

VICTORIA (AFP) - Madagascar's leader Andry Rajoelina arrived Tuesday in the Seychelles where he joins Marc Ravalomanana, the president he ousted three years ago, for a second round of talks, officials said.

"Madagascar's transitional president has arrived ... he went straight to the presidency where he will meet with (Seychelles) President James Michel," a government official told AFP.

Rajoelina joins Ravalomanana who arrived earlier Tuesday, and who was also supposed meet individually with Michel.

The two rivals are expected to meet face to face on the main Seychelles island Mahe on Wednesday, with South African President Jacob Zuma as the mediator.

"It is my hope...we can together reach a consensus that will establish a lasting solution for peace," Michel said in a statement, adding that "the return of stability" was crucial for the region.

The first one-on-one meeting between the rivals ended without a resolution on July 25 at an exclusive resort on Desroches, a private Seychelles island.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which mediated the talks, extended a deadline to August 16 for the rivals to settle their differences.

Since then, Madagascar has announced the first round of long-awaited elections will take place on May 8 next year.

The Indian Ocean island has been mired in political crisis since Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana in March 2009 with the army's support.

Although the two last year signed a "roadmap" toward elections, the deal has yet to be fully implemented.

The main point of contention is Ravalomanana's return to his country. Exiled in South Africa for the past three years, he wants to be cleared for the 2013 polls.

He faces life in prison back home after being sentenced in absentia for the killing of demonstrators by his presidential guard during protests that led to his overthrow in 2009.

Ravalomanana on Tuesday denounced the "kangaroo court" conviction over the killing of protesters.

South African prosecutors said Sunday they were investigating if the case amounted to crimes against humanity.

"A purposeful attempt is being made to mislead South Africans into thinking that I am guilty of a crime and this is simply untrue," Ravalomanana said.