JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An attempt by Madagascar's toppled president to end his exile in South Africa was thwarted in the air Saturday when his plane was forced to turn back after authorities on his Indian Ocean island closed their airspace to prevent his return, his spokesman said.
Peter Mann, a spokesman for Marc Ravalomanana in Johannesburg, said airline officials told him the plane would refuel in Mozambique before returning to South Africa, where Ravalomanana has been exiled since a populist former disc jockey toppled him with military backing in 2009.
In Madagascar, where thousands of Ravalomanana supporters had awaited him at the capital's airport, a government minister told reporters that Ravalomanana's rival, Andry Rajoelina, had issued a notice closing the country's main airports to prevent Ravalomanana's return.
Earlier Saturday, Ravalomanana, his wife, two aides, journalists and passengers not linked to him had boarded a commercial South African Airways flight in Johannesburg. Ravalomanana said he wanted to return to work for peace and democracy in his troubled homeland.