Madagascar leaders lash out at U.N. ban on travel ahead of international conference

Madagascar officials on Saturday lashed out at a United Nations Human Rights Council decision to re-impose travel bans on Madagascar’s leaders amid the country’s worsening crisis, the Antananarivo News said.

More than 60% of the population faces economic hardship and chronic food insecurity following political violence since last year, including the two presidents who had opponents arrested or abducted over past months.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday night extended the travel ban on Madagascar’s two presidents,, prime minister and secretary of state for communications for a year, adding that such measures could be extended until August 2017.

Neighboring Seychelles was among 15 nations that supported the Ivory Coast government’s appeal, while 13 backed France’s presidency. China was the only member with veto power who voted against.

“This was a biased and politically driven decision. This is absolutely based on speculation,” said Antananarivo mayor Andriano Croci as he opened Madagascar’s International Tourism and Ports Conference.

“It’s false and irresponsible on the part of the council,” he said.

The Washington Post reported this week that Antananarivo and its three closest airports were serving half their capacity, drastically reducing the number of international tourists, academics and entrepreneurs who could come to the island for a spell.

“We are getting an impact of this decision. For several months now, we are having problems handling people, including the air traffic,” Croci said.

Prime Minister Arthur Rakotoarivelo said the decision violated international law by singling out a specific country, and another recent blow to tourism was when the tourism council asked for $10 million for humanitarian missions, he said.

“I could not be silent in this matter,” the mayor said.

Thabo Mbeki, head of the Africa Union, and Jean Ping, chairman of the U.N. commission of inquiry on human rights in Madagascar, have come out against the travel ban.

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