Seychelles proud to have hosted historic meeting on Madagascar


The two Malagasy leaders – Andry Rajoelina (left) and Marc Ravalomanana (right) – during their meeting on Desroches in the presence of President James Michel

A meeting was held in the peaceful and serene environment of Desroches Island on Tuesday and Wednesday which for the first time since the adoption of the roadmap on Madagascar last year, brought together the President of the Transitional Authority of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, and former President Marc Ravalomanana.

This meeting, hosted by Seychelles under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) saw the two Malagasy rivals shake hands, after being welcomed by President James Michel on Desroches and having two hours of tête-à-tête talks on Tuesday before continuing in-depth discussions on Wednesday.

“Having the two leaders meet for the first time this way is a breakthrough towards resolving this crisis and we look forward to the follow-up meeting in the next SADC summit in mid- August, which will build on these discussions on Desroches,” said President Michel in a statement.

The meeting was chaired by South African President Jacob Zuma as current chair of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security and his delegation included Marius Fransman, Deputy Minister, International Relations and Cooperation and special envoy for Madagascar.

The SADC roadmap endorsed by 10 of the 11 stakeholders in Madagascar provides among others the setting up of an all-party senate and a calendar for elections within a year.

Mr Fransman joined the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, as chair of the Indian Ocean Commission, yesterday afternoon to brief the press on the Desroches meeting.

They said that the meeting of the two Malagasy leaders in a tête-à-tête -- with President Michel and later on their own -- to negotiate a solution to the three-year impasse, represents enormous progress.

The two leaders are expected to meet again within 10 days and until then, there will be a lot of footwork by ministers from Seychelles, South Africa and elsewhere.

Messrs Adam and Fransman briefing members of the press on the Desroches meeting

“What we are after is to restore normalcy to Madagascar, to get rid of the economic sanctions, to see foreign investment flowing in and for the Malagasy people to get on with their lives,” said Mr Fransman.

He said that playing host to the two Malagasy leaders, President Michel has made an enormous contribution, as Seychelles was seen to be playing an impartial, but constructive role to defuse the crisis. 

“He made a plea to them to think about the negative impact of the three-year crisis on the Malagasy people and he got their trust. This showed because they came freely to the meeting on Desroches,” said Mr Fransman.

He added that there is still a long way to go and what is expected of the two leaders.   
Mr Adam said it is obvious that enormous strides have been made and with a bit more time, more compromise can be achieved.

He added that solving the political crisis in Madagascar is also about solving the bottlenecks in regional trade, not least the high cost of extra-regional trade for our island economies.

“Bringing political stability to Madagascar, which has such rich agricultural and mining potential, means turning the islands of the south-west Indian Ocean into a more prosperous zone,” said Mr Adam.

What are left outstanding are such issues as the right of return to Madagascar for former President Ravalomanana and the question of amnesty since he has already been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Malagasy court, the authority of which he does not recognise.

On the tête-à-tête talks, it is reported that there was no animosity at all, but good engagement.
It is hoped that nobody will fall back into a hardline position. On the contrary, it is hoped that if necessary, they will both be willing to sacrifice their political ambitions for the greater good of the Malagasy people.

At the same press conference, Mr Adam also noted that President Michel had also used the opportunity to follow up on talks he had already had with President Zuma at the recent African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa.

This focussed on expanding trade by way of Durban and other South African ports and tourism.

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