- A Malagasy court has today sentenced the ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana to four years in jail in absentia for alleged abuse of state resources, local reports have revealed. The sentence could complicate the progressing negotiations to reintroduce democracy on Madagascar.
Mr Ravalomanana purchased a presidential jet from the Disney group for US$ 60 million in 2008. Local news reports cited the transitional administration's Justice Minister Christine Razanamahasoa saying the former leader was slapped with the four years in prison and a US$ 70 million fine.
Mr Ravalomanana, who is reportedly in South Africa seeking support to go back home, was issued a warrant of arrest by the new administration under the leadership of Andry Rajoelina accusing him of confusing the state with one of his private companies.
Mr Rajoelina's army-backed takeover was widely condemned by international communities describing his move into the Madagascar’s leadership as a coup. Malagasy constitution states that Mr Rajoelina, 35, is too young to run for presidency.
The new slap in the face of ex-President Ravalomanana in the form of a prison sentence comes as the current Malagasy government negotiates with opposition forces about a possible way to return to the constitutional order. The UN, African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) brokered talks include the political blocks supporting current leader Rajoelina and exiled ex-Presidents Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Zafy Albert.
According to the Malagasy government, the three ex-leaders and their political parties have been granted a possibility to participate in national elections if they agree to a proposed transitional charter and a general political amnesty.
The independent daily Antananarivo-based newspaper L'Express reports today that, despite little media coverage and big discretion, UN, AU and SADC mediators are involved in intensive talks to find a compromise that could lead to the holding of free and fair elections. Sources not wanting to be named told the newspaper that discussions were already moving towards the next stage, which included the composition of transitional government bodies and the extent of the amnesty.
It was unsure how the jail sentence for ex-President Ravalomanana would influence on the mediation process, but analysts hold this could be just one way of putting the ousted leader under pressure to accept government terms.
Madagascar is currently suspended from the AU and SADC due to the unconstitutional government on the Big Island. Also most international donors, attracted by Mr Ravalomanana's progressive government, have withdrawn from Madagascar, whose growing tourism industry also was shattered by the coup. The economic and humanitarian situation is therefore rapidly deteriorating on Madagascar.
It was therefore good news for the Malagasy government as the UN's humanitarian arm OCHA today announced it had allocated over US$ 6 million for the Indian Ocean Island to help 190,000 people in the rural southern regions of Madagascar hit by drought, cyclones, and political instability.
OCHA said Madagascar has suffered the effects of multiple crises this year including political instability which slowed the delivery of basic services and aid, and severely affected industry and other livelihood sources, including tourism.
Since taking over power after the 17 March resignation of President Ravalomanana, the new administration in Madagascar has not had a rest with the ousted president's supporters also staging ongoing protests demanding for his reinstatement.
More than 100 people have died since violence broke out in Madagascar early this year, leading to the change of government and thereafter.
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