Here is an interesting article written by Peter MANN, former South African political journalist and (former or current?) Marc RAVALOMANANA’s communication adviser, and published on Business Day on April 20th, 2011. Despite his rather visible partiality, what he says about Malagasy politic and global local situation do truly depict the current Malagasy context of the ongoing crisis.
MADAGASCAR may be better known as the name of a fantasy Hollywood movie rather than a country, but a recent visit there revealed a sinister horror movie redolent of the worst excesses of apartheid.
First, let me declare my bias. I travelled to Madagascar as an adviser to exiled President Marc Ravalomanana, who just over two years ago was driven from the country at gunpoint in a French-backed coup d’etat that led to the installation as “president” of a “high transitional authority” of Andry Rajoelina, the 34- year-old former disc jockey and elected mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo.
Since then the country has been mired in a struggle over its political future as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) tried to mediate a “road map” to restore it to constitutional government.
Sadc is being hard pressed to find a solution, and has now called for an extraordinary summit on Madagascar on May 20 in Windhoek. It faces twin, possibly related, problems — full-on, flat-out interference by France in the internal affairs of another country; and the seeming corruption of the Sadc mediation team to the French view.
After the coup in 2009, Sadc and the international community quite correctly declared they would have no truck with a man who had seized power violently and they imposed sanctions on the illegal regime.
Now the “road map” proposals by the Sadc mediator, former Mozambican foreign minister Leonardo Simao, seemingly aided and abetted by former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, are that the coup leader be appointed president of a transitional government, and the real, democratically elected president is not invited back any time soon — preferably not before the election, if they can brazen that out. (The proposed diplomatic language is that he will be allowed back when and if the security situation allows it.)
This in the midst of a climate of a total absence of human rights. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in detention without trial. And, according to reports by international agencies and diplomats, torture is rife.
In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued on April 8, the US government says Madagascar is ruled by an “unelected and illegal civilian regime” and that it has “failed to establish a legitimate transitional administration that would oversee free and open elections for the restoration of a legal government”. It says “military leaders continue to assert their autonomy from the current political leadership, despite their tacit support of the de facto government”.
It continues: “The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings and other security force abuses; harsh prison conditions, sometimes resulting in deaths; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pre- trial detention; censorship; intimidation and arrest of and violence against journalists; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; curtailment of the right of citizens to choose their government; official corruption and impunity; societal discrimination and violence against women, and trafficking of women and children; and child labour, including forced child labour.”
Two examples quoted in the US report provide some insight into the actions of the regime. On November 23 last year, regime forces arrested a former judge of the International Court of Justice, Raymond Ranjeva, and his pregnant daughter, accusing Ranjeva of being involved in a November 17 coup attempt. Ranjeva was released on bail a few hours later, but his daughter remained in custody for insulting regime forces and was sentenced to a month of probation.
Malagasy sources tell me Ranjeva was arrested to show that no one in the country was “untouchable”, and that the arrest of his daughter was designed to intimidate him.
On May 15 last year, opposition politician Ambroise Ravonison was violently arrested during a radio interview. Two other interviewees and three members of the radio’s staff were injured, and the radio station’s equipment was vandalised. Ravonison, a French citizen, obtained a provisional release and fled the country.
Political gerrymandering in Madagascar by the regime and its French sponsor defies belief — and the world seems to care not a jot, occupied as it is by the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Côte d’Ivoire .
The coup leader and his wife are holed up in their palace. They travel only in a blue-light convoy, which roars through the narrow streets of the capital — presumably to keep them safe from inept bombing attempts.
The French ambassador, Jean-Marc Chataigner, was welcomed with open arms by Rajoelina, who said Madagascar would never separate from France, when he arrived in the immediate aftermath of the coup.
It is widely reported and believed in Madagascar that Chataigner has an office in the presidential palace. It is also widely believed that France is bankrolling the bankrupt regime. His advisers come directly from the Élysée Palace in Paris.
It appears that, at France’s urging, Rajoelina is preparing to turn his back on the Sadc mediation, believing that the seeming rejection by SA, Zambia and Botswana — the Sadc countries overseeing the “road map” mediators — in favour of the extraordinary summit on Madagascar means that his case is running into opposition from Sadc.
Instead, there was a French love fest recently as Mauriti an Foreign Minister Arvin Boolell, along with representatives from La Reunion, Seychelles and France, met Rajoelina, under the aegis of the little-known Indian Ocean Commission.
Rajoelina’s French-inspired strategy seems to be to thumb his nose at Sadc, call his own sham election, reportedly in September, and gain recognition of his government by France and her surrogates.
The question asked in Madagascar is whether Sadc will stand up to the French and what it will do to stop the regime’s unilateral actions, which are in flagrant violation even of Sadc’s as yet unapproved road map.
As a single example: the road map proposes a transitional government of national unity to oversee the free and fair internationally supervised elections. It holds that while Rajoelina can be president of the interim government, he has to appoint as prime minister a candidate from the opposition. He has simply reappointed his own prime minister to the post. One businessman in Madagascar reportedly paid $2m to the regime to be appointed to the cabinet.
While the gerrymandering continues, the Malagasy people are suffering devastating poverty (more than 75% live on less than $10 per month) and total disruption of their civil liberties from what can only be described as political gangsterism.
A peace and conflict impact assessment report prepared for the United Nations Children’s Fund by the Graduate Institute Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding last year says “Madagascar’s very sovereignty may soon be under threat”.
It points to “the cycle of extreme poverty, rising criminality, the paralysis of the armed forces and the concomitant mushrooming of ‘alternative’ security forces (militia)”, which “does not bode well for the future.
“While the political crisis continues, the country’s valuable resources continue to be plundered … and the population continues to starve. With every week those pillaging the island become increasingly ruthless…”.