Exiled Ravalomanana says will return to Madagascar Saturday
Madagascar's ex-president Marc Ravalomanana said Friday he will return home from exile in South Africa on Saturday, almost three years after he was ousted by the island's current leader Andry Rajoelina.
"It is with great pleasure and carrying the hopes and aspirations of all Malagasy for a return to peace and freedom in our beloved country that I announce, once again, that I will return to Madagascar tomorrow," Ravalomanana told a press conference in Johannesburg.
Ravalomanana had previously tried to return home in February last year, but was blocked at the airport by airline officials who said they had received a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) order from Madagascar that the country would turn away any aircraft that had him on board.
The self-made millionaire said Friday he was confident that the scenario would not repeat itself.
"It has taken a year of hard negotiation to get back to the point where I am confident that I can now return to my beloved country, ending three years of exile in South Africa," he said.
He said the lifting of the NOTAM, the signing of a roadmap to steer the country to democratic elections and the recent return of fellow ex-leader Didier Ratsiraka from exile in France had made him confident he would be allowed to go home.
But there is still the tricky question of his conviction on charges he allowed his presidential guard to open fire on protesters in February 2009. He was sentenced in absentia to life in prison and hard labour, and Rajoelina's camp has vowed in the past to send him to jail if he returns.
Ravalomanana said he was confident Rajoelina did not have the authority to carry out the threat.
"Any attempt to arrest me will be unlawful," he said.
"I have not committed any of the crimes of which I am accused by the illegal regime. You cannot legalise an unlawful and unfair legal process."
Ravalomanana said he planned to run in new elections whenever they were held.
"I won't participate in the transitional government but I will participate in the presidential elections," he said.
He vowed to accept the result of a free and fair vote, and said his focus would be on building a dialogue with his political rivals -- including Rajoelina.
"We will see how we improve the life of Malagasy people," he said when asked what he would do differently.
"How can we work together to create and build a new Madagascar? We have to work together for the interest of the nation. I'm ready to listen to anyone, and I am prepared to talk to anyone.
"The genuine Malagasy-Malagasy dialogue is only the key to solve the crisis in Madagascar."
© 2012 AFP