June 23 (Bloomberg) -- South African President Jacob Zuma and his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, urged Madagascar to accept a regional proposal that would allow former President Marc Ravalomanana to return from exile.
The two leaders said they “noted with regret” a statement by Madagascar’s transitional government that rejected the Southern African Development Community’s plan. The statement came after a five-day meeting of the Democratic Republic of Congo-Republic of South Africa Bi-national Commission in Lubumbashi that ended on June 21.
Madagascar has been crippled by a political and economic crisis since Andry Rajoelina, a former nightclub DJ, seized presidential power in a March 2009 coup backed by the military. After Rajoelina reneged on a power-sharing plan mediated by the international community, SADC leaders unveiled a “Roadmap out of the crisis” at a meeting in South Africa earlier this month.
Madagascar was suspended from SADC following Rajoelina’s coup. The 15-nation community says it will recognise Rajoelina as president if political exiles including Ravalomanana are allowed back “unconditionally.” Ravalomanana was blocked from returning to the Indian Ocean island nation on a South African airlines flight in February and has been given a lifetime prison sentence in absentia.
While Rajoelina has said “legal matters” await Ravalomanana’s return, Zuma and Kabila “strongly urged” his government “to reconsider its decisions and abide by the SADC Summit decision” in the interests of stabilizing the country.
--Editors: Paul Richardson, Ben Holland.
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