It’s been a tough year for our diplomats who’ve weathered a storm of criticism over Cote D’Ivoire, Libya and most recently, the foreign minister’s costly refusal to scan her handbag at airport security. But finally some good news: after long months of tough negotiations, the squabbling factions of Madagascar signed a historic agreement which just might set that troubled island on the path to normality – and it was mostly our doing. By SIMON ALLISON.
Despite his Sunday afternoon being interrupted, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesman Clayson Monyela sounded happy – relieved, even – to be talking about Madagascar. “It’s a major breakthrough which should be welcomed by all Africans,” he told Daily Maverick. “We think it provides a window of opportunity for that country to move forward and have an election that will produce a government that will be supported by everyone.”
The major breakthrough he was referring to was the agreement signed in Antananarivo on Saturday, which paved the way for elections within a year and the return of all political exiles, including ousted president Marc Ravalomanana. This last issue had been the major sticking point, with current president Andre Rajoelina previously refusing to countenance the return of his archenemy. Its resolution is a significant breakthrough in discussions, and credit for that must go to the experienced SADC mediators and the concerted effort made by the regional body – an effort spearheaded by South Africa – to resolve the Madagascar crisis.
Despite a criminal conviction for murder hanging over his head, stemming from his alleged treatment of opposition demonstrators during his rule, Ravalomana will likely return from his exile in South Africa within a few weeks, according to Monyela. “That issue is part of the package,” said Monyela.
A good day at the office for South Africa’s diplomats, who’ve been working hard on the Madagascar issue for months; the signing of the final agreement was overseen by Dirco deputy minister Marius Fransman. Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane apparently wanted to be there, but couldn’t find a way to get her handbag through airport security. DM
Anti-riot police block supporters of Madagascar’s exiled leader Marc Ravalomanana demonstrating on the road leading to the airport in Antananarivo February 19, 2011. Madagascar’s security forces fired teargas to disperse crowds of supporters of the former president camped out near the capital’s international airport on Saturday and expecting his return. REUTERS/Faniry Clarel Rasoanaivo
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