Southern African Leaders Discuss Madagascar, Zimbabwe
By Scott Bobb
Ezulwini, Swaziland
30 March 2009

Southern African leaders at a special summit in Swaziland are responding to the controversial change of government in Madagascar and examining an economic recovery plan for Zimbabwe.

King Mswati III of Swaziland

Swaziland's King Mswati the Third told delegates of the Southern African Development Community the new power sharing government in Zimbabwe had eased political tensions in the country and now its greatest challenge was economic recovery.

"We continue to be happily impressed by the progress made in the formation and operationalization of the inclusive government," he said. "We are already witnessing the first fruits of Zimbabwean unity."

He welcomed the government's appeal for $2 billion in emergency funds to finance economic rehabilitation.

But he said such a program cannot be implemented successfully as long as economic sanctions continue against Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe, who was leading the Zimbabwean delegation, applauded the speech. Mr. Mugabe blames western sanctions for the decline of Zimbabwe's economy and social services.

Western governments imposed selective sanctions against certain Zimbabwean leaders because of corruption and human rights abuses.

The Swazi monarch said SADC leaders must also deal with what he called the forced removal from office of Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana.

"We need to abide and comply with SADC protocols and treaties," he said. "However, as history shows, the dictates of life are such that now and again challenges occur resulting in unfortunate eventualities and problems which are not in line with our protocols."

He concluded the unconstitutional takeover of power by what he called the de-facto regime in Madagascar violates the basic principle and treaties of SADC and therefore is not acceptable.

Mr. Ravalomanana resigned two weeks ago and the military handed power to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina who was then installed as head of a transitional authority.

But the African Union says the transfer was unconstitutional and has suspended Madagascar's membership.

Western governments have also rejected the transfer and some have suspended non-humanitarian aid.

Mr. Ravalomanana was invited to the summit although organizers did not clarify in what capacity. He told supporters back home in a broadcast telephone message Saturday to continue their demonstrations against the new government and said he would join them soon.