Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 11, June 2009
Algeria to host 2nd Pan-African Cultural Festival
by Kizito Sikuka

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has appointed former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to mediate in peace talks between ousted Madagascan leader Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

"The Summit decided that SADC will be proactively promoting and facilitating dialogue and have appointed His Excellency Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, assisted by a high level team of mediators to lead and coordinate the all party dialogue in Madagascar," read part of the SADC statement.

Southern African Heads of State and Government made the resolution at the end of a SADC Extraordinary Summit held in Sandton, South Africa, on 20 June to consider the political and security situation in Madagascar.

The appointment of Chissano, a respected elder, comes barely a week after the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) suspended their mediation efforts, citing lack of political will by the two parties.

Madagascar slid into a political turmoil in March this year following a coup on President Ravalomanana by opposition leader Rajoelina, who had military backing.

The SADC, AU, UN and many other regional as well as international organizations responded to the development by either expelling the island nation of about 20 million people from their membership or imposing sanctions on the country.

The organizations also vowed never to recognize the current regime and even mooted a military intervention to save millions of Malagasy people who have been affected by the deteriorating situation in their country.

But in a communiqué released soon after the SADC Extraordinary Summit in South Africa, regional leaders said there was need for an inclusive political dialogue among all concerned parties to address the situation in Madagascar.

The Summit, chaired by SADC chairperson and South African President Jacob Zuma, noted that the dialogue, which is to be owned by the Malagasy people, should start as soon as possible.

Chissano is expected to work closely with all stakeholders such as the UN and AU in bringing peace to the island state.

Despite the recent collapse of UN and AU mediation talks, the two organizations have been working flat out to promote peace and stability in Madagascar.

"The Extraordinary Summit urged all stakeholders to commit themselves to peaceful negotiated settlement through dialogue and desist from any violent solutions and inflammatory statements which may jeopardize and undermine current efforts in bringing constitutional normalcy," said SADC.

The regional bloc also appealed to the Malagasy people through their main parties to take active ownership of the dialogue and create a conducive environment for a productive and successful dialogue by refraining from all forms of violence.

Southern African leaders said a review of the dialogue process would be made at the forthcoming 29th SADC Ordinary Summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo in the first week of September this year.

In a bid to address the situation in Madagascar, regional leaders had sent a SADC Special Envoy and the Ministerial Troika of the Organ on assessment missions to Madagascar to appraise them on the state of affairs in the island nation.

The two organs all called for an inclusive dialogue among the Malagasy political actors and underscored the urgency of implementing the agreed resolutions.

Madagascar is one of the world’s largest islands and a key economic player in the region.

However, political instability in that country has affected economic growth and forced the ousted leader, Ravalomanana to live in exile in South Africa.

Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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