UPDATE: Madagascar: New president suspends parliament

The violence on the streets has ended. But two days after the army swept the 34-year-old to power, Madagascar's newly-installed president Andry Rajoelina suspended the Indian Ocean island's parliament.
Norway said it was maintaining a freeze on aid to Madagascar but France's new ambassador paid the acting president a visit, as the world mulled its response to Marc Ravalomanana's ouster and his young successor's first moves.

A day after being confirmed as acting president by the constitutional court, the new administration's first cabinet meeting decided to create two new bodies to run the country.

"In consequence, the activities of the following institutions are suspended by the present order: the senate, the national assembly," spokesman Augustin Andriamananoro added.

The outgoing parliament was overwhelmingly dominated by politicians loyal to the ousted 59-year-old Ravalomanana, who had been in power since 2002.

"Priority is given to setting up the transition and guaranteeing public order," acting prime minister Monja Roindefo told AFP before the start of the cabinet meeting.

Rajoelina has still to appoint 12 ministers to his cabinet, including someone to handle the defence portfolio.

Roindefo said his government would continue efforts to develop the country and voiced confidence that the transfer of power on the Indian Ocean island would not scare off donors.

"Honestly, I don't see why they would sever ties now if they were not dissuaded by Ravalomanana's governance," said Roindefo.

But while most foreign powers were non-committal, refraining from either recognising the island's new masters or from describing Rajoelina's army-backed rise to power as a coup, Norway said it was maintaining a freeze on aid.

"Bilateral aid is still frozen," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Simenstad, whose country gives Madagascar 14 million dollars a year.

Speaking on Wednesday to 15,000 supporters celebrating victory after a deadly three-month power struggle, Rajoelina promised to tackle poverty.

Three-quarters of the population live on less than two dollars a day, and Rajoelina took a swipe at Ravalomanana, who owns a flourishing food empire and was perceived as corrupt.

"I am not going to sell rice and oil... I am going to reduce prices," he said, also announcing that one of his first measures would be to sell Ravalomanana's plane, a 60-million-dollar Boeing 737.

Rajoelina also told reporters late Wednesday that his administration had slapped a travel ban on some outgoing ministers.

"There are many files pending at the moment, they should not leave the country until a real assessment of the state of the country has been conducted. A lot of money has been released from the banks in Madagascar," he said.

The youthful president, who only became the country's undisputed opposition leader two months ago, also said the warrant his justice minister issued against Ravalomanana last week was still valid.

The ex-president has not been seen in public since last week.

Rajoelina added that the ousted president had likely found refuge in an embassy residence. "If you're in a protected embassy residence, nobody can go in," he said.

Meanwhile the world mulled its response to the inexperienced former disc jockey's accession to power after a bitter crisis that left around 100 people dead.

Zambia called for Madagascar's suspension from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande said Lusaka rejected the "unconstitutional" change of guard.

The AU had been due to hold another meeting of its Peace and Security Counncil Thursday at the pan-African organisation's headquarters in Addis Ababa but the session was cancelled.

Former colonial power France's new ambassador arrived Wednesday in Madagascar and promptly paid Rajoelina a visit. His predecessor had left the island prematurely in the summer of 2008.

19 March 2009

Source: AFP

African Feminist Forum joined Malagasy women to condemn bloodshed and urged the African Union Commission

• to appoint a high-level African woman to be part of the team that will facilitate the resolution of the political crisis in Madagascar;
• to ensure that regular consultations with Malagasy women and their organizations will take place during their mission to Madagascar;
• to ensure the equal participation of Malagasy women and their organizations in the process for the resolution of the crisis, as well as in the subsequent political processes, including elections.

In solidarity with women in Madagascar, we stand ready to support the efforts of the African Union Commission towards a peaceful resolution of the political crisis, and the achievement of our common goal of ensuring that the values and principles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights will be translated into reality in the lives of all African women and men."