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Madagascar President Prevented from Addressing UN General Assembly

By Margaret Besheer
United Nations
26 September 2009

The U.N. General Assembly annual debate was disrupted late Friday when some African leaders voiced their strong objections to the president of Madagascar making his address. Andry Rajoelina came to power in a military-backed coup last March and his government has been roundly rejected by both the South African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

Mr. Rajoelina was supposed to speak on Thursday, but was dropped from the speakers list after objections from SADC.

His name reappeared Friday, but when it was his turn to take the podium, the foreign minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Alexis Mwamba, intervened on the behalf of SADC.

"Mr. President, I am taking the floor on behalf of the Southern African Development Community ... under Article 71 and 113 of the General Assembly rules of procedure, SADC would like to express its protest against the decision to invite Mr. Andry Rajoelina to take the floor at the general debate of our August assembly," he said.

He pointed out that both SADC and the African Union have decided not to recognize the Malagasy government of Mr. Rajoelina that came to power in a coup d'etat and that they support mediation efforts to return constitutional order to that country. He said as long as it is not reestablished SADC will not recognize the current government.

"If the floor is, however, given to him, we would like to urge all member states to continue to manifest their support for us by standing and exiting the room. Thank you Mr. President," said Mwamba.

General Assembly President Ali Treki said he was informed Thursday of SADC's objections and said he had been in contact with the U.N.'s legal counsel on the matter.

"There was a representative from the legal counsel who was present at our meeting," he said. "The response of the legal counsel was that the president [of the GA] can defer giving him the floor, but cannot ban giving him the floor, but cannot prohibit him from being given the floor, because he was invited by the United Nations."

President Treki said he had the power to decide in accordance with the rules of procedure and said Mr. Rajoelina should be given the floor, but that if any state wanted to appeal his decision, they should indicate it immediately and it would be put to a vote.

Minister Mwamba called for a vote, but it was wrapped in confusion, as the delegate from Jamaica expressed the frustration of many of his counterparts.

"I am not sure what it is that we just voted for. And I am totally confused. And many delegations have not yet voted," he said.

The vote was repeated and after yet more confusion it was decided that there were enough votes to keep Mr. Rajoelina off the podium.

It was not clear whether the vote would be deemed final or whether the Madagascar delegation would be given a chance to speak Saturday or Monday, when the assembly's annual general debate ends.

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