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Ousted Madagascar leader plans return on Saturday

20 January 2012, 19:41

Johannesburg - Ousted Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana said he would return home on Saturday after nearly three years in exile and still considered himself the rightful president of the Indian Ocean island.

Speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg on Friday, Ravalomanana said he did not fear calls for his arrest that prevented a similar plan to return almost a year ago.

"I have not committed any of the crimes of which I am accused by the illegal regime," he told reporters.

Exiled in South Africa since he was toppled in a military coup in 2009, Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the runup to his removal.

Madagascar's current leader, Andry Rajoelina, has said the return of the former president risked stoking tensions and a senior cabinet minister said in September that Ravalomanana would be arrested on arrival.

That has not deterred Ravalomanana. "Any attempt to arrest me will be unlawful," he said.

Madagascar was plunged into crisis in 2009 when Rajoelina, with the support of dissident soldiers, took power after weeks of often violent protests, prompting Ravalomanana to flee to South Africa.

The coup plunged Madagascar into a crisis with several Western nations freezing aid and the African Union imposing sanctions on the president, diplomatically isolating the world's fourth largest island.

The uncertainty has stunted the economy, a major source of nickel and cobalt and world's biggest vanilla producer, but politicians have agreed a road map aiming for elections later this year and will allow Rajoelina to stay in power until then.



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