An open letter to the friends of putchism

I have been meaning to write this blog post a lot sooner, but it has been hard to find the time to analyze the existence of something that completely took me by surprise.

Here is my surprise tweet on January 21st when I had stumbled across a WALL STREET JOURNAL article written by Andry Rajoelina with a most incensing title “An Open Letter to the Friends of Madagascar”.  In the Wall Street Journal of all places! Granted it was in the opinion journal, but did Andry Rajoelina end up with a Wall Street Journal article?

So I took the time to read the article and was furious! (not that I wasn’t sufficiently furious from the title of the article alone) The article was so full of wrong and misleading information it was clear to me that it was “designed” to try and curry sympathy from all of us in North America (but then Andry Rajoelina wrote it, so should I be surprised?). If you were unfamiliar with Andry Rajoelina, after reading this article it might be good enough to convince you that Andry Rajoelina is some sort of David to the international communities Goliath. Since I don’t want that to happen, I have written this post to explain a few things.

I hope I don’t get called out for copying the article verbatim into my blog… but I want to take the article paragraph by paragraph and attempt to right all the wrongs that it may do just by existing. So here we go:

Madagascar, my country, is sinking into a political crisis of extreme gravity, and there is no exit in sight. This situation is the result of the following series of events:
Last March, my predecessor, Marc Ravalomanana, at last became conscious of the limits of his autocratic exercise of power, having been awakened by an unprecedented popular movement. He took the initiative to leave the country, entrusted a military directory with power, then felt it was right to transfer power to me, as the constitution allowed him to do. The Malagasy High Constitutional Court, which was composed at the time only of members designated by Mr. Ravalomanana, validated these actions and ruled that they were in accordance with the Constitution.
(Pardon the underscores, WordPress formatting isn’t agreeing with me)  _
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While there may have been some legitimate reasons why the public would have been upset with Ravalomanana, namely the Daewoo land deal, the purchase of a presidential jet (validated by Rajoelina himself as he could have used a presidential jet on a trip to Dakar, but instead hijacked a jet and forced passengers to wait for him) and perhaps the closure of VIVA, but I would not say that Ravalomanana was autocratic maybe just cocky on how he used his presidential powers. And it may have been the cockiness and public sentiment on these issues that garnered support for Andry TGV’s “unprecedented movement” which inevitably led to the coup.
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To say that Marc Ravalomanana “took the initiative” to leave the country and that the military was constitutionally allowed to transfer power to Andry Rajoelina is completely false. The “initiative to leave” began when Andry Rajoelina had gained army support from the CAPSAT mutiny on March 8th, 2009. With no military backing Marc Ravalomanana had no choice but to gradually retreat from Tana to Iavaloha (outside of Tana) where he would put up his last stand. But after a very short and meek resistance to Andry Rajoelina, on March 17th, 2009 Ravalomanana transfers his presidential power to Hippolyte Ramaroson, the oldest and highest ranking army official and shortly after fled for his life in the night to Swaziland.
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The jury is still out as to whether or not the military “felt right” about transferring power to Andry Rajoelina or if the power transfer was done under duress. This statement highlights a mystery that I feel has gone fairly unnoticed by the media which is the possibility that Hippolyte Ramaroson and his accompanying generals were forced to transfer power at gun point.
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At some point on March 17th, 2009 Hippolyte Ramaroson and 3 of his generals along with Pastor Rasendrahasina (president of the FFKM) were intercepted in transit by CAPSAT and taken to their camp where eventually presidential power was officially signed over to Rajoelina. There has never been any confirmation of this but when asked about the transfer of power the captured generals stated that “the decision was not made under duress” which only makes it that much more mysterious (why insist?). An article from Midi Madagasikara provides some information on the arrests and threats to Hippolyte, Lala Rasendrahasina and Neils Marquardt. Personally I think they were either forced into signing power over at gun point or were made an offer that they couldn’t refuse, if you know what I mean.
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It is a constitutional stretch for Andry Rajoelina to hold power though as the constitution itself only allows individuals 40 yrs and older to become president. Most people believe that the High Constitutional Court’s (HCC) decision to validate the constitutional aspect of the transfer of power was made because of intimidation. Initially this was speculation, but when the HCC reversed its decision on April 23rd, 2009 it turned speculation into truth. This was only highlighted by the fact that  HCC was subsequently stormed by the military on April 27th, 2009 to arrest the head of security accused of “destabilizing the country” (whatever that means).

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The international community, however, railed against what it deemed a “putsch” or a “coup d’état”—terms that I vigorously oppose, considering not only the Constitutional Court’s approval, but also that the will of the large majority of the Malagasy people is to see me lead the Transitional Government.
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As soon as I took office, I clearly said this period of transition should end as quickly as possible. I called for a return to the constitutional order through a rapid referendum, and through transparent and democratic elections. I asked the international community to support my country in these efforts.
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The answer (from the United Nations, from the African Union, from the International Francophone Organization, from the Southern African Development Community) consisted of imposing a “consensual and inclusive” transition under the threat of sanctions. The sanctions included suspending the economic help without which my country is condemned to durable and inevitable chaos. The principle of a “consensual and inclusive” transition is in itself perfectly praiseworthy. Unfortunately, this principle clashed with the Malagasy reality, the limits of which the international community has apparently not been able to measure or appreciate.
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Putting aside the fact that Andry Rajoelina neglected to mention the HCC decision reversal, he also neglects to mention that the large majority of Malagasy people he is referring to are in Tana when he speaks of the “will of the large majority of Malagasy people” charging him with leading a transitional government . Reports on the number of TGV supporters in Tana seems to vary widely from as high as 80,000 to as low as 3,000, but since I have been following this crisis I seem to remember the TGV crowds to be between 3,000 and 5,000 people. During the power struggle there was virtually no mention of support for Andry Rajoelina outside of Tana and most people outside of Tana had no idea who he was. In addition to this, supporters of Marc Ravalomanana came out by the thousands daily to protest against TGV in February it was reported to be 30 – 50,000 people at a rally at Mahamasima Stadium and thousands more came out throughout March after Rajoelina had succeeded in his coup (see pics here at AndryDago). So, if people outside of Tana aren’t familiar with him and thousands in Tana oppose him, how can a “large majority” of Malagasy support him to lead a transitional government?
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Regardless as to whether or not Andry Rajoelina’s intent was to transition the government quickly, the fact is that he had gained his new powers from the use of military force and not via political means. Therefore it would go without saying that the international community would not support him and his efforts because by doing so, they would be endorsing the coup d’etat itself.
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The standard reaction to a coup d’etat is inclusive talks with all parties to reach an agreement that would allow for a democratic solution to a country’s problems. I am not surprised that Andry Rajoelina would take this almost sulky stance insinuating that he does not comprehend why the international community is reacting the way it is to his coup. Sanctions, restrictions and condemnation are the only tools that the international community has to push a country in the direction that it wants (generally toward a democratic solution) and are typically the only thing that forces change in a country aside from some form of military intervention.  He alone is responsible for the current “economic chaos” as he puts it, and if he were truly concerned about his country he would have stepped aside, or agreed to whatever the AU/SADC were proposing. Unfortunately for the people of Madagascar, the principle of “consensual and inclusive” talks are clashing with Andry Rajoelina’s principles and the international community is well aware of the Malagasy reality, but cannot relent as this would also be endorsing the coup.
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What kind of consensus could have been found with a former president who is hated by his people, who plundered his country for his exclusive benefit, who ordered the shooting of a crowd demonstrating its legitimate will to see regime change?
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Why demand, at all costs, that a national reconciliation process include two former heads of state—one who was deposed by the National Assembly and the other who is under severe penal prosecution, and whose political representation in Madagascar is almost nonexistent?
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How could one imagine that a “consensual and inclusive” solution could be found with heads of parties and former heads of state, who have been disqualified by the Malagasy people but brought back to the political stage through gamesmanship? Why, when their sole aim is to demand more than what is reasonable, to block compromise, and to serve only the forces of inertia, should I be the only one held responsible for the failure of negotiations?
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Clearly we have established by now that the former president is not hated by his people if there are many support rallies for him and against TGV to this day. But stating that Ravalomanana had actually ordered the slaughter of his own people is misleading and just a way for him to accentuate his assertion that he is a hated president. He neglected to mention that his supporters were put in danger that day by his call to install the TGV PM in the presidential palace. I definitely do not agree with the shootings that occurred on February 7th, 2009, but I can’t help but wonder what anyone else would have done if there was a rush of angry, politically charged people heading straight forward for them. Your life would almost certainly be in danger, so how would you react? On top of this you would be in charge of defending a “red zone”, a place where you have the authority to shoot. So perhaps it was the circumstances and panic set in causing someone to fire, or perhaps it is just that they are authorized to use force (since it is a red zone)… either way, it was the wrong decision. No one will ever really know what happened that day.
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To this day, no one knows exactly why Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy were included in talks to resolve the crisis. Obviously there must have been some form of political gamesmanship to bring them back, but know one knows how it was done or by whom. What we do know however is that their involvement has made the negotiation process more complex than it needed to be and this complexity can be blamed for the delays in the resolution of the crisis, surely 4 presidents coming to an agreement on anything is not an easy thing to achieve.
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Perhaps it cannot be proven that Marc Ravalomanana did not do certain things for his own benefit (as there were many conflicts of interest) but you cannot say that he “plundered” his country, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Ravalomanana had increased the GDP of the country year over year, made significant investments in infrastructure, education, provided good quality local foods with his company TIKO (one of the potential conflicts of interest),  attained many benefits for Madagascar such as AGOA and MCC. It is Rajoelina’s illegal government has taken away all these benefits from Madagascar and is plundering the country’s precious rosewood, the country is now in a downward economic spiral as a result.
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There are in Madagascar living forces who are much more representative of the people and of their aspirations than those who are responsible for the failures of the past, and who are still today demonstrating their incapacity to overcome mere partisan interests.
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I have however accepted, under pressure from international authorities and considering the risk of eventual sanctions for my country, to compromise with heads of parties designated by these authorities. My hope is that if we are guided solely by the interest of the people and of the country, we can find a consensual way to organize quick elections.
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Readers should recall that, despite the fact that I have the support of a large majority of the Malagasy people and of the army, I have, during diverse negotiations in Antananarivo, Maputo, and Addis Ababa, agreed to many compromises—probably more than I should have, given my strong base. But this is not enough for my interlocutors. Their revanchist spirit and appetite for power overwhelm the general interest.
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But the Malagasy people have been waiting for six months, impatiently, for the end to an illusory and unnatural mediation. Madagascar is being held hostage to a logic that it does not understand. Because there is no exit in sight and because the country is in the midst of a long stagnation, my fellow citizens are made into victims. There is an urgent need to end this situation.
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I have therefore taken the decision to stop participating to the so-called Maputo negotiations. It is my responsibility as president of the Transition is to give the Malagasy people a voice. Only a legitimate authority will be able to democratically put an end to this difficult period of trouble.
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I have designated a new prime minister in charge of leading the current government, whom I am confirming in his duties and whose only mission, apart from the management of daily affairs, is to organize the next elections. I can announce that the election of the members of the Constituent Assembly of the Sixth Republic will take place on March 20, 2010. On that date, the current government will resign.
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The only reason that Andry Rajoelina has ever accepted any negotiations is in hopes that he can somehow obtain international recognition so that he can resume the flow of donor money into Madagascar, hardly over concern or interest for people or country.  As you know he has failed to gain international recognition, the most notable failure being prevented from giving a speech at a UN general assembly in September of 2009.
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When Rajoelina compromised for Maputo II it was once again an attempt to try and legitimize himself and to restore the flow of donor cash. It was obvious that his plan was to compromise just enough to be declared the legitimate transitional president, but not enough to lose any significant amount of power. So a consensual transitional government was formed and talks of ministry distribution were to occur later as disagreements didn’t allow them occur at that time.
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When it came time for the follow-up meeting to discuss the distribution of the government ministries Rajoelina was notably absent so the meeting continued without him and subsequently the consensual government collapsed with Rajoelina deciding that he knows what is best for the country. Rajoelina then appoints a military figure as PM and unilaterally declares that he will have parliamentary elections in March of 2010, pretending that he is a legitimate authority and that the people of Madagascar will have a choice (as anyone elected will need to be HAT friendly). All this in preparation to move to the 6th republic the sole purpose of which is most likely to change the minimum age of a Malagasy president from 40 to a level that would legally allow Rajoelina to become president.
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A new prime minister will then be appointed from the party which wins a majority in the next elections. That prime minister will be in charge of forming a new government, taking into account the representation of various political forces in the new parliament. This government, the result of legislative elections, will be charged with organizing presidential elections so that the new president of the Republic could take up his post before June 26.
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After the Maputo failure, there is no other solution to end this crisis. The Malagasy people must have the liberty to choose their own future. May the international community understand that there is no other alternative, and help us on the path to return to the constitutional order.

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At this point I don’t think anyone believes that there will be any sort of inclusiveness in Rajoelina’s elections and that they is a “solution” to the political crisis. The election, if it occurs, can not possibly be transparent as it will be run exclusively by the illegal government (since the international community does not agree with his elections) and it will do nothing but elect yet another PM that will Rajoelina’s bidding.

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The only part of this article that I believe to be true is that the Malagasy people must have the liberty to choose their own future, but unfortunately they will not have the opportunity as long as Rajoelina governs. All of us in the international community understand that there are no other alternatives but to negotiate our way out of this crisis and we hope that Rajoelina will take the path to returning constitutional order and peace to Madagascar.

Sanctions

There are signs now that the United states are going to be imposing sanctions in the near future in Madagascar as a result of the actions of the Rajoelina government (creating his own transitional government and arresting opposition members). Karl Wycoff, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the US says:

“We support a consensual and political solution, and we are completely opposed to the unilateral actions that the de facto regime has taken in recent weeks. We do not see that as a way forward for Madagascar.”

“Continued unilateral action and failure to find a mutually acceptable way forward could draw sanctions from the international community,”

This statement falls right in line with a communique from the from the recent SADC summit in Maputo that calls for a return to talks on the original Maputo agreements of August 2009:

“Summit rejects any attempt to use democratic means, institutions and processes to legitimise governments that came to power through unconstitutional means, and urges the international community, in particular the development partners, to support SADC’s efforts to promote and sustain democracy in the region in general and Madagascar in particular.”

This in many ways is a very good thing, because we can see a stand being taken by the SADC and US that they will not tolerate any of the games that Andry Rajoelina is playing. Once the US makes talks of taking action against a particular country, it is not uncommon that the rest of the world will follow suit. So not surprisingly, Andry Rajoelina doesn’t have a hope of continuing his disastrous rule of Madagascar.

But what of the sanctions? What does that mean for Madagascar? While not tolerating what the Rajoelina government is doing may be a good thing sanctions in addition to everything else that has happened to Madagascar certainly won’t be good for its economic health.

I found this blog entry from Jason Pbolete’s blog on April 29, 2009 that suggests some of the things that could be done to Madagascar should sanctions be laid upon the country:

The U.S. should seriously consider economic sanctions against the coup plotters and urge our allies in the region and Madagascar’s trading partners to do the same.  All leaders and government officials should be added to the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control, specially designated nationals and blocked persons list.  Any assets held in U.S. back accounts should be frozen and access to the U.S. financial system blocked.   In addition, because the coup is inconsistent with U.S. policy and national security, as well as with provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as well as other U.S. economic assistance laws,  the Millennium Challenge Corporation should suspend all lending programs until this matter is resolved consistent with the laws of Madagascar and the MCC Compact.

It’s not to say that all or any of these things will happen, but if sanctions were to start you can expect that this would increasingly isolate Madagascar from the rest of the world and cause a country whose textile industry is or will be reeling from the loss of their AGOA benefits to continue to go down their economic downward spiral.

Despite sanctions and all other measure taken against the the illegal government of Madagascar, the government seems to expect 2.6% growth in its economy despite the fact that there was only a 0.6% growth in the economy last year. But rather than offering specific information on how they are going to grow the economy, the government states the following:

Private industry will drive economic growth this year, now that the “monopoly on economic activity” presided over by former President and businessman Marc Ravalomanana has been removed, Fienena said. “Now everyone can participate in the economy.”

Essentially saying that despite the annual growth that was occurring during Marc Ravalomanana’s tenure as president (7% in 2008), that he is somehow the reason behind the current economic crisis and things should get better from here. Below is a graph from  indexmundi.com on Madagascar’s growth through the years after the last political crisis:

Madagascar GDP

Madagascar GDP

It would seem that Rajoelina’s governments estimates are not based in reality and are only a weak effort in trying to convince the Malagasy and the world that they optimistic and doing well in Madagascar. But in my opinion, it is impossible for the Malagasy economy to grow at all, or at least significantly while he is running the government illegally. When they have lost all of their donor money (which accounts for a significant amount of the governmental budget), lost their tourism industry, lost the ability to export freely to the US (AGOA) and face the prospect of having sanctions laid against the government there is no possibility that they have any chance of growing the economy. In addition to that, there will be no new investments in the country, current investors must be on edge about what may happen to their businesses it is unlikely that the benefits for anyone would outweigh the risks to investing there. The analyst in the bloomberg.com story seems to agree stating:

“We have forecast the economy to grow by 0.1 percent in 2010,” Kissy Agyeman-Togobo, senior Africa analyst at London- based Global Insight, said in a telephone interview. “All the indicators show that the economy is in difficulty. Uncertainty over future political and investment developments leaves Madagascar’s short-term growth prospects subject to a large degree of risk, especially because of a lack of donor support.”

It makes one wonder why a Malagasy person would attempt to greedily maintain control of his own country while knowing how much it is hurting its progress and people.

At any rate it is good to see that the opposition within the country are keeping up their protests against the government and also calling for the return to the Maputo accord. Interestingly, the once pro-Ravalomanana movement has now become a conglomeration of all opposition movements and is now called “Madagasikara movement”. While I am still a Ravalomanana sympathizer, I can see the benefit of becoming a larger entity to fight against a common enemy.

However, the troubling thing is that according to the Cyber Observer’s blog, the entity has plans on taking matters into it’s own hands and attempting to implement the Maputo accord on their own by taking over ministries to install their ministers, not unlike what Rajoelina himself had attempted to do. Here is an excerpt from the blog:

If the Madagasikara movement really have the intention to take over the ministries in Anosy, we all can expect some “heavy clashes” between ralliers and security forces. According to some local journalists, such take over will occur this week…

If it is infact true, we will have a case of history repeating itself within a year. I sincerely hope that they do not try to do this as it can only mean more violence for the country. I can understand that the diplomatic methods of resolving the crisis with an illegal regime are stagnating and that one would want to take action if no one else is willing to… but Rajoelina has the army on his side and will most likely use them to restore order. I personally do not want to see any more bloodshed like what had happened last year, so hopefully it is still just a rumour.

At any rate though, it would seem that there is at least some progress in many fronts (US/SADC and Opposition parties). There is certainly a great deal of pressure on this illegal regime, so with any luck we will see them crack soon as they certainly can’t have many options left.

Ravaging rosewood

According to mongabay.com, it appears that Rajoelina has given his presidential blessing to the illegal rosewood loggers of Madagascar to keep ravaging the precious rosewood found in Madagascar’s national parks:

The transitional authority led by president Andry Rajoelina, who seized power during a military coup last March, today released a decree that allows the export of rosewood logs harvested from the Indian Ocean island’s national parks.

The decree, dated December 31, 2009, says that “the export of export of precious wood can proceed.” Hundreds of containers’ worth of rosewood can now be shipped from Vohemar, a port in northern Madagascar.

Two weeks ago a $40 million shipment of rosewood from Vohemar was canceled after complaints that the French shipping company, Delmas, would facilitate the trafficking of illegally logged timber, potentially in violation of the E.U.’s FLEGT, a regulation which aims to reduce illegal logging.

But shortly after the Delmas shipment was canceled, Rajoelina’s government began applying pressure on Delmas to resume rosewood transports.

Patrick Leloup, an adviser to Rajoelina, reportedly threatened to prohibit Delmas from conducting future business in Madagascar if it refused to pick up rosewood stocks stored in containers in and around Vohemar.

It would appear now that the corrupt government is so desperate for cash that it is endorsing something that is condemned internationally in order to gain tax revenue. While this is travesty against nature, it does offer a glimmer of hope that this government does not have much life left in it. It may not be long before you see Rajoelina back at the bargaining table as I can’t see condoning something that is condemned internationally as something a sane government would do unless they felt they had to… not that I think that Rajoelina’s government is sane.

For those that don’t know, Rosewood is a strong/heavy wood that is often brownish and used to make things like furniture and luxury flooring (think red chinese furniture). Some species of rosewoods are on the endangered species list (if not all of them), and the logging is having a major impact on the national forests of Madagascar and it’s ecosystems. For more information on Rosewood, here are some links for your perusal:

The Madagascar Rosewood Massacre (Derek Schuurman/Porter P. Lowry III)

Madagascar Rosewood (Wikipedia)

Lemurs, Rare forests threatened by Madagascar Strife (National Geographic)

It really is a shame that it has come to this, and it is sad to think that anything that Rajoelina’s government does or has done may have been funded by this illegal activity.

In other news, it appears that Robert Mugabe is renewing his suggestion that the SADC should support a military intervention to oust Andry Rajoelina from his post and restore democracy. You might remember around July sometime last year there was speculation and great concern that COMESA (which Mugabe heads) was somehow going to get a military force to go to Madagascar and oust Rajoelina. Here is an excerpt from a June 8th, 2009 Reuters article:

“We welcome and agreed, as pronounced by the AU, to support SADC as they take a lead in efforts to restore constitutional order in Madagascar by examining all options, including the possibility of military intervention,” COMESA said.

There is always some irony to anything that Robert Mugabe suggests, as his own country is still mired in a political crisis because of this very suggestion, military intervention. Here are some excerpts from an Afrik.com article to elaborate on that point:

When he was the chairman of the SADC organ on defence, he sent troops to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a war that triggered excessive Government expenditure and was one of the major causes of Zimbabwe’s current economic meltdown. The war led to condemnation, as many Zimbabwean soldiers were killed while Zimbabwe received little benefit from it.

Mugabe also sent troops to Mozambique to fight the then Renamo that was led by Alfonso Dhlakama during the 1990s

Political analyst Chris Mawere in Harare said Mugabe’s move- if confirmed would be a disastrous one. “It would be a complete shock if the SADC meeting consider and endorse Mugabe’s plan. It’s a disastrous one. His own country is in a similar situation with that of Madagascar, will he accept a military intervention in Zimbabwe?” Asked Mawere.

A very small part of me agrees in taking some action now, only because I am so tired of how long the democratic process takes and how sick I am of hearing about AU “negotiations”.  The rest of me knows full well that this is the completely wrong way to go and would create more trouble than it is trying to solve.

I always go back to a quote from my favourite band (Linkin Park): “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor that die” and no doubt that it would be the Malagasy people that would pay the greatest price while Rajoelina would no doubt sit safely somewhere while everything transpires. The Malagasy army would not lie down and take any sort of invasion, so we would just be starting an additional crisis and adding complexity to an already overly complex problem. It’s a good thing that no one takes Mugabe seriously any more!

The only thing we have to look forward to is what kind of action will be proposed at the SADC summit today at 3PM GMT. However, since we already know what the outcome will be, I guess we really don’t have anything to look forward to in the near future. We can just sit back and wait to see how all the political parties take to the “renewed call for talks”… hooray.

Deja vu, another opposition crackdown

In preparation for upcoming elections in Madagascar, Rajoelina is starting to perform some spring cleaning of opposition party members.

According to Reuters, Fetison Andrianirina (Marc Ravalomanana’s avatar in Madagascar) is being charged by the police in relation to a bombing that had occurred in July of last year.

The “honourable” Justice Christine Razanamahasoa (appointed by Rajoelina and had issued an arrest warrant for Marc Ravalomanana and  Raharinaivo Andrianantoandro previously, among other things) has issued an arrest warrant for Fetison.

It makes you wonder why the HAT government even tries to conceal their intentions within trumped up charges, it isn’t like anyone believes that Fetison was involved in any of these crude acts of so called “terrorism”. If I am not mistaken, the two people referenced in the article that died planting a home made bomb had died most unfortunately when the 3rd suspect had dialed the number for the bomb rather than his girlfriend.

In addition to the opposition party member crack down, Rajoelina and the HAT are also cracking down on all sorts of opposition supporters and journalists. Didier Ravohangiharison and Lolo Ratsimba journalists from the FJKM church radio have been arrested (as well as Jaona Raoly who has only recently been freed) in December. You may remember this church because Marc Ravalomanana was an elected vice-president of this church during his time as president and there were heavy accusations that he was not keeping church and state separate. The “honourable” Justice Christine Razanamahasoa is charging them with a “failure to report the mutiny to police on December 29th”. Apparently, these two journalists are the only ones who could have notified the police of the mutiny.

It is no wonder the opposition leaders were “allowed” to return on December 18th, it is obviously the easiest way to control them. What better way to setup the parliamentary elections in March, than to shove all of your opponents into jail and pretend that you are being open and transparent.

Despite all of this, it blows my mind that there are people “in Madagascar” that still support Rajoelina’s dictatorship style rule. According to the newspaper ‘Les Nouvelles’ there is a group of youths called “Hetsiky ny mpitondra Fivavahana” that is appealing to Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka to distance themselves from Ravalomanana (or else) and they fully support and defend Rajoelina’s version of a transition and democracy.

And all we the the seekers of “true democracy” can do is sit and watch this all transpire as our favourite group of people come together with yet another meeting to discuss a ‘compromise’ for the crisis that afflicts Madagascar. According to AllAfrica, the AU will elaborate and present a compromise to the Malagasy people by January 25th. Which will then allow all involved parties 2 weeks to respond to their proposals, which will inevitably end in Rajoelina ignoring or stalling the process. So we will need to wait until mid to late February before we can even see Rajoelina spit the proposed resolution back in the faces of its creators. A little bit absurd, but then, who said democracy moves fast?

It has to make you wonder when the AU will cease the pursuit of a ‘consensus’ between all parties, and if it will ever reduce ‘all parties’ down to Rajoelina and Ravalomanana? There will be no consensus, and even if there were to be one it will take longer to reach with all 4 parties to negotiate, it is overly complex and they are doing nothing but setting themselves up for continual failure.

Farewell AGOA

It looks like the US has finally had enough of the illegal regime of Andry Rajoelina and has recently decided to end Madagascar’s eligibility for AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act). Related articles: AllAfrica and DefenceWeb

This could potentially have a HUGE impact on the economy and an even bigger impact on the textile industry of Madagascar. According to this July, 2009 Reuters article the industry could face collapse if it is no longer eligible for AGOA. Here are some high level points of that article:

  • Madagascar’s textile industry makes  $600 million a year.
  • Half of the 150 textile factories (employing 50,000 people) supply the following US companies: Walmart, Bloomingdale’s, PUMA and Adidas.
  • Madagascar’s textile industry contributes to 6.5 – 8% of the country’s GDP
  • Clothing exports from Madagascar to the US totalled $278.8 million in 2008.
  • More than half of Madagascar’s textile exports are destined for the US.
  • When US exports dry up, it will drive up costs in Europe which will cause Madagascar’s exports to become ‘unattractive’.
  • If AGOA is not in place, Madagascar’s distance would make it a very expensive operation due to fuel and electricity costs.
  • Mauritius, Swaziland and Lesotho stand to experience an impact if Madagascar loses AGOA as they supply textile materials to Madagascar.

According to the AGOA info page on Madagascar, since the country’s exports have been eligible under AGOA the number of exports from Madagascar have grown 3-fold.

The events of 2009 have had a tragic impact on Madagascar  and any progress that it has made since 1999/2002 virtually reversing the progress that the country has made. Over the course of 2010 we are going to start to see the textile industry suffer and slowly die, adding those 50,000 people to the already high number of poor and unemployed people on the island.

It is really sad to sit back and watch a country that was finally starting to make progress and prosper to fall apart as quickly as it has. I was rooting for Madagascar and the progress it was making, especially the difference I had witnessed in only 3 years between my family’s visits.

Now it is just frustrating:

  • Frustrating that I don’t feel like my family can go back to visit Madagascar in its current state.
  • Frustrating to see how long this coup d’etat has been allowed to drag on.
  • Frustrating that this whole thing was started on the lie that Rajoelina was somehow going save the poor from the evil Ravalomanana, who despite any conflicts of interest for his presidency has done way more good than bad.
  • Frustrating that Rajoelina is using diplomacy as a tool to prolong his control over the country. He knows full well that all everyone wants to do is come together and reach an agreement to resolve the crisis, but he continually negotiates, then breaks negotations to stall progress.
  • Frustrating that the army is siding with Rajoelina and allowed the coup to happen and that they are not doing anything to correct their mistake.
  • Frustrating that I know there will never be other way to approach the political crisis other than negotiations (and cannot be any other way).
  • Frustrated that Rajoelina himself is too greedy and does not see what is happening to his own country as a direct result of his actions. That he doesn’t have the wisdom to realize his mistake and start working towards a resolution to the mess that he has made.

I honestly don’t think that we will see anything good come of the crisis in 2010, I can only hope that Rajoelina finally gives up and we can start repairing the damage that has been done.

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