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Madagascar swears in military-chosen leader

Sun., March 22, 2009

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – The new president of Madagascar was sworn in at a ceremony Saturday that was shunned by the international community after the ousting of the elected leader.

Thousands of supporters watched Andry Rajoelina take the oath of office at the municipal stadium in the island nation’s capital.

But African countries have refused to accept Rajoelina as president, and radio stations broadcasting the ceremony live said no foreign diplomats attended the ceremony.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana resigned Tuesday and placed power in the hands of the military, which then announced Rajoelina as the country’s new president.

The impoverished Indian Ocean island nation of 20 million people is known for its rare wildlife and eco-tourism, but the stakes have risen since oil was discovered three years ago.

Rajoelina – who accused Ravalomanana of misspending funds and undermining democracy – promised new elections within two years, after a new constitution is adopted, new electoral laws are introduced and an independent electoral commission is installed. He said in his speech Saturday that the measures would be handled by a national commission involving all sectors of society.

But the international community is pressing the country to restore democracy.

The African Union on Friday suspended Madagascar’s membership, and the U.S. cut all non-humanitarian aid.

On Thursday, countries in the southern Africa region said they would not recognize Rajoelina.


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