Former president Marc Ravalomanana is being allowed to serve his house arrest at his own home, Madagascar’s government said Friday.
Ravalomanana, ousted in a 2009 coup, had been held under house arrest in the northern town of Antsiranana (also known as Diego Suarez) since returning from exile in South Africa in October.
However he discreetly returned home Wednesday evening and spent the Christmas holiday with this family.
“The decree assigning Marc Ravalomanana to house arrest has not been rescinded but the place has been changed … he has been transferred to his home in Antananarivo,” a senior Interior Ministry official, Thierry Rakotonarivo, told AFP.
The former president’s spokesman told the daily Madagascar Express that Ravalomanana’s contacts with the outside world were still extremely restricted and that he cannot receive visitors without permission.
Ravalomanana slipped back into Madagascar in October, five years after a military coup and two months of violent protests forced him to flee abroad.
He returned without warning, seeming to question the legitimacy of the current authorities.
He had been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment with hard labour and was promptly detained, but has been participating in national reconciliation efforts.
The ousting and exile of Ravalomanana, and the fierce personal rivalry with his immediate successor Andry Rajoelina, polarised the island nation, which is highly dependent on coffee, vanilla and other agricultural products.
Five of Ravalomanana’s allies who were considered political prisoners were pardoned on Wednesday by current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was elected one year ago as part of an effort to resolve the crisis.
Seven remaining political prisoners are slated to be pardoned by the end of the year.