ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s leader said on Saturday the time for talks was over after failed power-sharing negotiations and that he would press ahead with forming a new government on the Indian Ocean island.
President Andry Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident soldiers in March last year after weeks of mass protests. The two have been at loggerheads ever since as international mediators work to install a unity government.
Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka attended three days of talks this week in Pretoria, organised by mediators from France, South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
SADC said after the summit that the four leaders had agreed to meet again in two weeks, but Rajoelina’s comments upon his return to Madagascar have cast doubt on that meeting.
“I showed patriotism and humility. But it was the last chance. There won’t be any more,” Rajoelina told reporters. “The time for negotiations is over.”
The crisis has hit foreign investment and battered the tourism industry in Madagascar, the world’s biggest producer of vanilla and a country with potentially substantial oil and mineral reserves.
Rajoelina said he would meet the military on Monday and decide together how to take the former French colony towards elections. He said he would address the nation in 48 hours.
The army, which installed Rajoelina after Ravalomanana stepped aside, had given the president until the end of April to come up with an acceptable way out of the political impasse on the world’s fourth largest island.
“I will meet with the prime minister and a unity government will be put in place,” Rajoelina said. “If the other political movements take part, so much the better. If they don’t want to, too bad, we will have done our duty.”
The turn of events is following a similar pattern to previous attempts to bring about political reconciliation.
The four leaders met three times in Mozambique and Ethiopia last year and thrashed out power-sharing deals, only for them to fall apart when Rajoelina returned home.
This time, Rajoelina said from the start in Pretoria that he was ready to sign the proposed deal drawn up by the mediators without any changes — as long as Ravalomanana did the same.
SADC mediator and former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said the sticking points at the Pretoria talks were the timing of elections and an amnesty for alleged crimes.
In July last year, a Madagascar court sentenced Ravalomanana in absentia to four years in jail for abuse of office in the purchase of a $60 million presidential jet.
“The consultations were productive and a number of good and useful proposals were put forward,” Chissano told reporters.
“At the conclusion of the consultations, the leaders of the four movements committed themselves to reconvene in approximately 15 days in South Africa to resolve outstanding matters,” he said.
Additional reporting by Peroshni Govender in Pretoria; writing by David Clarke; editing by Philippa Fletcher