Exiled ex-Madagascar leader on way home: aide

24th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Madagascar's former president Didier Ratsiraka was on his way home Thursday, ending a nine-year exile in France after a unity government was unveiled this week, an aide told AFP.

The 75-year-old Ratsiraka left Paris late Wednesday and was on a stop-over in the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, said Ange Andrianarisoa.

"He just called me on his stop-over in Mayotte. He is in the plane, he will arrive," said Andrianarisoa. "The aircraft had technical problems, but it has now taken off."

Ratsiraka was Madagascar's president from 1975 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2002.

He fled to France following a prolonged post-election dispute which sparked violence and chaos when he refused to concede defeat to Marc Ravalomanana.

The impasse split the vast island nation in two -- with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army -- until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in May 2002.

In 2003, Ratsiraka was sentenced in absentia to hard labour, five years in jail for threatening state security and 10 years for embezzling public funds.

However, current president Andry Rajoelina, who ousted Ravalomanana in an army-backed coup in March 2009, has said several times that Ratsiraka is free to return home.

Despite taking part in recent negotiations to resolve Madagascar's crisis triggered by Rajoelina's power grab, Ratsiraka has refused to sign a deal mediated by the Southern African Development Community to end the turmoil.

On Wednesday, Ravalomanana's party and that of another former president Albert Zafy agreed to join a unity government unveiled this week by consensus Prime Minister Omer Beriziky.

© 2011 AFP

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