Madagascar's ousted president has been barred by officials in his homeland from returning from exile in South Africa today, the politician told reporters at Johannesburg's airport.
Marc Ravalomanana said aviation authorities in Madagascar had written to South African Airways to say he was not welcome. Ravalomanana had been booked on the carrier's regular Saturday flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital. A day earlier, an airport official in Antananarivo, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, had told the AP that Ravalomanana would be barred.
The democratically elected Ravalomanana has been in South Africa since being ousted in 2009 by Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey turned Antananarivo mayor who was supported by the army. Rajoelina has been shunned by the international community and has so far rejected attempts by South Africa and other neighbors to mediate a solution that would restore democracy.
By not getting on the plane, Ravalomanana avoided a possible showdown at the airport in Antananarivo. He faces arrest in Madagascar after a court set up by Rajoelina convicted him last year of conspiracy to commit murder, charges linked to the unrest surrounding his ouster. The court sentenced Ravalomanana to life with hard labor.
After Ravalomanana told reporters in Johannesburg earlier this week that he was returning, South Africa, the region's main power broker, cautioned him against taking "unilateral measures." Speaking to reporters this week, South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane acknowledged coup leader Rajoelina has ignored mediation efforts so far, but said negotiations are continuing.
"There are discussions about keeping the de facto President Rajoelina as an interim leader as we build up to returning the country to democratic order," Nkoana-Mashabane said.