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Madagascar News: Exiled former president sent back to South Africa

Marc Ravalomanana's attempt to return to Madagascar have been thwarted for the second time.
Madagascar president marc ravalomanana returns 2012 1 23Enlarge
Police cordons off a crowd of people gathered outside the airport of Antananarivo waiting for the reported arrival of Madagascar's ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana on Jan. 21, 2012. (Gregoire Pourtier/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The hopes of Madagascar's ousted former President Marc Ravalomanana to return triumphantly to home soil from South African exile were dashed — again — at the weekend.

Just an hour before his plane was due to land at the airport in the capital Antananarivo it was turned around due, it seems, to "security concerns" at the airport where a large crowd of his supporters had gathered and were being kept at bay by riot police.

More on GlobalPost: Marc Ravalomanana, former president, denied entry

On board the flight was Niren Tolsi, a journalist for South Africa's weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper.

Below are parts of his report he wrote about "the theater of the absurd" on board:

"At around noon, Ravalomanana was informed by the airline's security chief, who was on board the flight and identified only as Heinrich, that the plane had turned around and was now heading back to Johannesburg. But information was scarce — unlike the anger and disappointment welling up inside Ravalomanana and his entourage, or the general chaos in midair.

"Ravalomanana's attempt to set foot on Malagasy soil was thwarted an hour before it was due to happen. According to the airline's security chief, the pilot had been informed by ground control at Ivato International Airport that it had been closed due to 'security concerns.'

"News filtering through suggested that large crowds — estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 — had gathered at Ivato in expectation of Ravalomanana. No one would say who had given the order to close the airport down, but Ravalomanana's aides suggested that it must have been an executive order from someone in the government of Andry Rajoelina (who had deposed Ravalomanana's democratically elected government in a 2009 coup)."

This is the second time that Ravalomanana's attempts to go home have been thwarted by his ouster and opponent Rajoelina.

Now it is being reported that Rajoelina has had a change of heart, saying he'll even send a private plane to collect the former president ... and then have him arrested on arrival.

More on GlobalPost: Madagascar's former president plans return, risks arrest

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/africa-emerges/madagascar-former-president-ravalomanana-return-not-welcomed