Madagascar’s Head of State, Andry Rajoelina, was this week forced to queue for immigration clearance while other officials, also attending a SADC meeting, were ushered to the VIP lounge.
Sunday Standard investigations revealed that immigration officials had received strict instructions that Rajoelina, who was attending a meeting to resolve the Madagascar political crisis, should not be accorded VIP treatement.
Rajoelina, Madagascar’s former leaders, Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka, ex Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano and Zambian President Rupiah Banda as well as incumbent SADC chair and Nambian President Hifikepunye Pohamba attended a two-day meeting hosted by the SADC Secretariat to seal an agreement between Madagascar’s warring politicians.
While the meeting was unsuccessful, Botswana’s Protocol arrangement in receiving the leaders has raised eyebrows.
Besides Rajoelina’s humiliation, there has been suggestions President Ian Khama’s inability to welcome the leaders into Botswana at the airport before the meeting may have been a signal of his government‘s disdain for Rajoelina and SADC’s approach on resolving the issue.
This has raised eyebrows questioning Botswana’s protocol sincerity and whether the gesture by government and Foreign Affairs authorities is not scorn for the SADC chair, Rupiah Banda, who is also Zambian President,
Ex Mozambique President Jacquie Chissano, who leads the team trying to resolve the Madagascan crisis, who all arrived in Botswana this week for a meeting to resolve the two-year political feud between Madagascar’s President Rajoliena and his rival who is in exile in South Africa.
Defending government’s position on not according Rajoelina any VIP courtesy treatment, Minister of Foreign Affairs Phandu Skelemani said that Botswana does not recognize Rajoelina as Madagascar’s Head of State.
“We don’t recognize Rajoelina as a Head of State, he is just an ordinary Madagascan citizen,” said Skelemani in an interview with the Sunday Standard.
He said following the SADC summit in Namibia where the Madagascan issue was discussed, Botswana agreed to host the round of talks following a proposal on ending the feud.
“At the Windhoek summit, President Chissano provided a road map for Madagascar, which we had reservations about. However, we agreed that the SADC Secretariat would host the next round of meeting after it was agreed for Chissano’s proposal to be more inclusive.”
He said that the Botswana government allowed everyone involved in the problem, including Rajoelina, to meet in Botswana to try and resolve the issue.
Skelemani said that although President Khama did not meet the leaders when they arrived at the airport, he nevertheless met with all of them later.
An official of the Foreign Affairs ministry, Chandapiwa Nteta, explained in a separate interview that the meeting was a SADC event and did not require President Khama to meet with the visiting leaders at the airport.
“It depends on what they are here for; this is also not the first time that we are having a visit by heads of state but you must note that this was a SADC event,” said Nteta.
Like Skelemani, she said that eventually Khama did manage to meet the visiting leaders.
Rajoelina seized power with the backing of the military in 2009 and ousted Ravalomanana.The latter, who is exiled in South Africa, has been sentenced to death in absentia in Madagascar.
SADC has proposed that Rajoelina lead Madagascar to elections to bring the country to constitutional normalcy.
However, Ravalomanana and Madagascar’s other leaders are against the idea.