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Southern African bloc chides Madagascar ousted leader's wife

President of Madagascar's High Transitional Authority Andry Rajoelina (L) addresses a press conference on July 26, 2012 in Antananarivo following his return from the Seychelles. (AFP PHOTO / Andreea Campeanu)

ANTANANARIVO: The Southern African Development Community on Tuesday condemned the failed bid by former Madagascan president Marc Ravalomanana's wife to return home while peace talk were in progress.

SADC said in a statement it was "dismayed by the surreptitious attempt by Mrs Ravalomanana to enter Madagascar in contravention of the current engagements."

Ravalomanana was ousted in March 2009 by the island's current leader Andry Rajoelina and has lived in exile in South Africa since.

The conditions of his return are seen as a key step in efforts to lift the impoverished nation out of a dragging political crisis and are being discussed by the two rivals under the regional bloc's aegis.

Last Friday Lalao Ravalomanana flew from Johannesburg to Madagascar to visit her family but was turned away by authorities and deported to Thailand.

Her visit came just two days after SADC brought Ravalomanana and Rajoelina together on a Seychelles island for unprecedented direct talks.

Ravalomanana was angry at the SADC stance.

"SADC does not know what it is talking about. Nor has the organisation bothered to ask me what happened," he said in a statement, adding he had recieved assurances from Rajoelina during the private talks they had in Seychelles and at which no SADC representative was present.

"During our tete-a-tete Rajoelina gave me an undertaking that he would not interfere with my family. He assured me that he was a family man and that my family would be safe in Madagascar.

"It was for that reason that my wife decided -- openly and not surreptitiously -- that she would return to Madagascar to visit her 82-year-old mother."

Following that his wife went ahead to book her flight.

"There is nothing surreptitious or provocative in that," he said.

Rajoelina's office described the attempt by Ravalomanana's wife to return as "provocative" and in "flagrant violation of the resolutions taken at the face-to-face talks held in Seychelles."

The former president and his wife have repeatedly tried and failed to enter the country since 2009. Their son Tojo lives on the island.

 

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