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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 01:56 GMT 02:56 UK
OAU freezes Madagascar's seat
Didier Ratsiraka
Only Ratsiraka is attending the OAU summit in person

The Organisation of African Unity has decided to freeze Madagascar's seat until a constitutional and legitimate government is established in the vast Indian Ocean island.

Last month Marc Ravalomanana was declared the president by a Madagascan court after a disputed election in December, but the verdict was not accepted by the former President Didier Ratsiraka and his supporters.

Marc Ravalomanana
Ravalomanana's supporters are disappointed by the OAU decision
The resulting stand-off between the two men has led to widespread civil unrest in the country which has cost up to 70 lives.

At an OAU emergency meeting in Addis Ababa, delegates decided that neither Mr Ravolomanana nor Mr Ratsiraka could be said to be the legitimate government and called for new elections.

The eight-hour meeting ran into the early hours of Saturday morning.

'Unfair'

Current OAU chairman, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, told the BBC that the OAU felt that neither of the two governments in Madagascar were constitutionally elected.

President Mwanawasa said that the Assembly of OAU Heads of State wanted to see free and fair elections take place, with the assistance of the OAU, the United Nations and the European Union.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
Mwanawasa: Call for new election
He said this would enable the people of Madagascar to choose their leader.

The decision was immediately accepted by former President Didier Ratsiraka, who was present at part of the meeting.

But although his rival Marc Ravolomanana did not attend the summit, his delegation led by Vice Prime Minister Narisoa Rajaonarivony, expressed disappointment at the OAU decision saying that it was "unfair".

Delegates from the Ravalomanana camp accused the OAU of siding with Mr Ratsiraka, despite the fact that a self-appointed constitutional court had declared Mr Ravalomanana president of Madagascar last month.

There are now fears that the Ravalomanana government may try to consolidate its position militarily, which could result in increased conflict between supporters of the two men.


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21 Jun 02 | Africa
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