- Total normalcy finally has returned to Madagascar and its foreign relations, as the re-admittance into the African Union (AU) closed the last chapter of the island's political crisis. South African President Thabo Mbeki personally welcomed Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana to the AU Summit.
Madagascar was banned from participating at the founding summit of the Union one year ago, and therefore never admitted to the AU. Madagascar had however been one of the founding members of the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The Indian Ocean island state was banned from last year's AU Summit because of the chaotic political situation prevailing there at that time, with outgoing President Didier Ratsiraka and President-elect Ravalomanana being engaged in a violent power struggle.
In a disputed decision, the AU decided there existed no government legally representing Madagascar although Mr Ravalomanana's election victory had been confirmed independently. The AU leaders later found it difficult to go back on this decision although most countries had meanwhile returned to normal diplomatic bilateral ties with the new Malagasy government.
At the opening of this AU Summit in Maputo (Mozambique), South African President Thabo Mbeki however was able to announce a change in policy. "They've agreed to lift the suspension of Madagascar. Therefore I am very pleased to welcome [Madagascar President Marc] Ravalomanana back [to the AU]," President Mbeki said.
The Malagasy President however was not present at the Maputo Summit opening, hosting visiting IMF leader Horst Köhler in Antananarivo. After yesterday's inclusion in the Union, however, President Ravalomanana was to lead a Malagasy delegation to Maputo and participate in the rest of the Summit.
Malagasy Communication Minister Andry Rasamindrakotroka today hailed the AU decision as a "triumphant event for the Malagasy people." This act, he held, meant that "democracy in Madagascar is recognised by all Africa and by the entire international community," according to Mr Rasamindrakotroka.
Also the French government, a traditional ally to Madagascar, today congratulated Madagascar on the long awaited re-admittance into the AU. "France happy to welcome the reintegration of Madagascar in the African Union, as announced yesterday by President Thabo Mbeki at the opening of the Maputo Summit," said a spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs today.
- The Big Island thus returns to find its natural place in the new African union, he added. The spokesman said this decision by AU leaders would "create favourable conditions for a re-launch of economic ties between Madagascar and the region" of Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
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