April 21, 2010 / 5:47 PM / 9 years ago

Madagascar talks set for April 28 in South Africa

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - The protagonists in Madagascar’s political crisis have agreed to attend talks in South Africa on April 28.

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina flashes a two finger salute, his party symbol, before addressing supporters in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, September 2, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Lough

President Andry Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident soldiers in March last year after weeks of popular protests. The two have been at loggerheads ever since as international mediators work to install a unity government.

Rajoelina’s office said late on Tuesday he would go to the talks in the interests of the nation. A spokesman for Ravalomanana said on Wednesday he planned to attend to try to return democracy to Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island and the biggest producer of vanilla.

The crisis has hit foreign investment into the Indian Ocean island with potentially substantial oil and mineral reserves and battered the tourism industry.

The army said last month Rajoelina had until the end of April to come up with an acceptable way out of the political impasse.

The latest round of talks has been arranged by mediators from France, South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Since the crisis erupted, there has been a diplomatic divide among African nations with Anglophones largely seen favouring Ravalomanana and Francophones tending to side with Rajoelina, according to African Union sources and analysts.

Ravalomanana had a rocky relationship with France and has accused the island’s former colonial power of supporting Rajoelina’s rise to power.

Rajoelina has been suspicious of SADC since Ravalomanana fled to exile in South Africa and an economic bloc of eastern and southern African nations (COMESA) said it was mulling military intervention to restore constitutional order.

France and the United Nations then warned against military intervention and urged further dialogue.

Tension in Madagascar has grown in recent weeks. There have been rumours of coup plots and the security forces have arrested 21 people since Sunday on suspicion of plotting attacks.

The military police in the capital Antananarivo told Reuters a grenade was thrown at the home of the justice minister on Tuesday evening but no one was hurt.

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