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.

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