February 25, 2009 / 6:29 PM / in 9 years

Madagascar opposition leader quits crisis talks

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s opposition leader pulled out of crisis talks on Wednesday after President Marc Ravalomanana failed to attend what would have been the fourth round of discussions to end weeks of civil unrest.

<p>Opposition leader and former mayor Andry Rajoelina addresses a rally in the capital Antananarivo, January 31, 2009. REUTERS/Rasaonaivo Clarel Faniry</p>

More than 125 people have been killed in a power struggle between the sacked mayor of the capital, Andry Rajoelina, and Ravalomanana. Rajoelina accuses him of turning the Indian Ocean into a dictatorship. Ravalomanana denies it.

“I take Mr Ravalomanana’s absence from today’s meeting as a demonstration of lack of respect for the Malagasy people,” Rajoelina told reporters at his home, adding that he felt mediators were biased in favour of his opponent.

Earlier on Wednesday, the archbishop who was chief mediator at three rounds of talks stepped down and called on the United Nations to come up with a way out of the impasse.

Archbishop Odon Razanakolona said little progress had been made. “Discussions seem to be blocked and are going nowhere. I have done all that I can to bring about a solution,” he said.

“After long reflection I have decided to play no further part ... I ask the United Nations to find other solutions.”

Other church leaders overseeing the negotiations said they would continue the mediation efforts.

Critics accuse Ravalomanana, a 59-year-old devout Christian who founded his business empire hawking yoghurt off a bicycle, of running the country like a private company.

Despite presiding over a period of economic growth during which major foreign companies have invested in oil and mineral sectors, analysts say Ravalomanana has failed to tackle poverty.

Rajoelina, a 34-year-old firebrand politician, has converted widespread frustration into popular support and established a parallel administration. He declined to say if the opposition was planning more anti-government protests.

The talks had brought a degree of normality to the capital, Antananarivo, but many businesses’ bordering the central Independence Avenue -- which saw some of the worst violence and looting -- were shut behind metal grills.

Opposition supporters have called for more demonstrations, but support for the city’s sacked mayor is not universal.

“If Rajoelina is talking about democracy then why doesn’t he wait for the next elections in 2011?” asked taxi driver Freddie Ranaitosoa.

0 : 0
  • narrow-browser-and-phone
  • medium-browser-and-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser
  • wide-browser-and-larger
  • medium-browser-and-landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser-and-larger
  • above-phone
  • portrait-tablet-and-above
  • above-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet-and-above
  • landscape-tablet-and-medium-wide-browser
  • portrait-tablet-and-below
  • landscape-tablet-and-below