June 3 (Reuters) - A Madagascar court sentenced former leader Marc Ravalomanana in absentia on Wednesday to four years in jail and a $70 million fine for abuse of office in buying a presidential jet.
Here are some facts on Ravalomanana and his fall from power:
* WHAT HAPPENED:
— Growing unrest before Ravalomanana’s fall killed at least 135 people, crippled the island’s $390 million-a-year tourism sector, and unnerved foreign investors in the Indian Ocean island’s burgeoning mining and oil industries.
— Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina took power on March 21, after Ravalomanana was forced out following opposition protests supportrd by the military. Ravalomanana fled to Swaziland. — The African Union, which opposed any unconstitutional change of power, said the military should not hand over to Rajoelina and suspended Madagascar on March 20. Ten days later, Southern African leaders suspended Madagascar from the SADC regional grouping and called on Rajoelina to step down.
— A conference in Madagascar in early April agreed a roadmap to hold a parliamentary election in March 2010 and a presidential election in Oct 2010. However, Ravalomanana’s party boycotted the meeting.
— Ravalomanana is in exile in South Africa seeking international support for a return to Madagascar. However new president Rajoelina late last month refused to allow him to return from exile potentially derailing cross-party political talks on the crisis. Rajoelina issued his edict a day after Ravalomanana accused him of being in league with former colonial power France to enslave the Malagasy population.
* POLITICAL CAREER:
— Ravalomanana’s career began in 1999 when he became mayor of the capital Antananarivo and kept his promise to clean it up.
— He became president in 2002 after an eight-month political crisis which began when long-term head of state Didier Ratsiraka refused to accept his victory in a 2001 election. This brought the poor Indian Ocean island close to civil war.
— Ravalomanana, a devout Protestant Christian from Madagascar’s high plateau, had mobilised mass demonstrations and military force to oust Ratsiraka, who fled to France.
— Ravalomanana was re-elected in 2006.
* LIFE DETAILS:
— He was born on Dec. 12, 1949, and educated by missionaries in the family village of Imerikasina, 25 km (16 miles) from the capital.
— Following secondary education in Sweden at a Protestant school, Ravalomanana turned to business.
— In his early 20s, he made yoghurt which he sold on the capital’s streets. He soon secured a World Bank loan, with the help of the Protestant church, to set up his first factory.
— He owns the TIKO empire. At one stage TIKO was the largest non-foreign-owned firm on the island with a monopoly on all dairy and oil products sold locally.