June 13, 2011 / 10:48 AM / 8 years ago

SADC seeks return of Madagascar political exiles

Madagascar's former President Marc Ravalomanana (L), current President Andry Rajoelina (C) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao arrive for talks in Maputo, August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Southern African leaders on Monday called on Madagascar to allow all political exiles including former President Marc Ravalomanana to return to the island state to end a political deadlock.

The world’s largest vanilla producer was plunged into political crisis in 2009 when Andry Rajoelina, backed by the military, seized power from former leader Marc Ravalomanana.

“(The) summit also urged the High Transition Authority to allow Malagasy people in exile for political reasons to be allowed to return to the country unconditionally including Mr. Marc Ravalomanana,” the Southern African Development Community said in a statement issued on Monday following a weekend summit.

Ravalomanana is in exile in South Africa and was restricted from returning home in February. He said Rajoelina’s government blocked his departure.

SADC, which had stood firmly behind Ravalomanana in the months after his overthrow, switched its stance and swung behind Rajoelina.

The statement, issued after a meeting of regional leaders in Johannesburg, also called on the political role players to create an inclusive process to hold free and fair elections.

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