February 19, 2011 / 9:20 AM / 9 years ago

Madagascar's deposed leader barred from returning

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Madagascar’s ousted President Marc Ravalomanana failed to return home on Saturday from exile, saying his country’s government had blocked his departure from South Africa.

Ravalomanana, 61, had planned to fly back on Saturday from two years in exile, risking arrest and life imprisonment if he returned to the nickel and cobalt producing island.

“The (airline) say they have received this note from Madagascar civil aviation saying that I am a non grata person,” Ravalomanana told reporters at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport. “I am very, very disappointed right now ... If the (airline) received the notice there is nothing you can do.”

Ravalomanana could not immediately say what he would do next.

Madagascar had urged South African Airways to block the self-made millionaire’s departure for security reasons, a senior civil aviation source said on Friday.

President Andry Rajoelina, who toppled Ravalomanana with military backing, had warned he would be arrested and made to serve a life jail sentence that was handed down in absentia for the killing of 30 protestors by Ravalomanana’s presidential guard.

Rajoelina, the mayor of the capital Antananarivo, seized power in 2009, provoking a political crisis in the world’s largest producer of vanilla.

Political analysts had said Ravalomanana’s return might escalate tension. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has acted as a regional mediator, raised concern that Ravalomanana’s decision to return would hit diplomatic efforts to break the impasse.

Reporting by Spokes Mashiyane, Writing by Olivia Kumwenda; Editing by Richard Lough/David Stamp

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