A strategy change

I have been watching what has been going on in Madagascar ever since the talks broke down earlier this week and up to today it seemed like they have no direction, even up to today. I have been a little busy recently so I haven’t been able to update the blog as much as I would have liked, so I put a short rundown below of the last 3 days and what I think of it:

On Thursday (Feb 26) of this week there was a call by TGV to rally at Mahamasima to try and remove the mayor that was installed by the president (Rivo Randrianarisoa) and install his selected replacement Michèle Ratsivalaka. The rally was small and rather short and was quickly dispersed by the army and police.

On Friday (Feb 27) of this week there were some protests in Fianarantsoa where there were 13 injuries and 2 deaths. One of the dead bodies was taken from the hospital to the “place of democracy” (May 13th?) with the Madagascar flag draped on top of it. Also after his meeting with the UN, Odon Razanakolona is ready to return as a mediator under 3 conditions: TGV and Ravalomanana take their commitment seriously, respect freedom of expression, and no arrest policy. TGV announces that they are creating a new entity called the CNC (National Coordinating Committee) which consists of opposition leaders such as: Rolland Ratsiraka, Alain Ramaroson, Jean Lahaniriko, André Ramaromisy, Jean Max Rakotomamonjy, and Jean-Jacques Rabenirina but the comittee is chaired by Andry TGV.

Today (Feb 28) there was another gathering at May 13th. Speeches were given criticizing Ravalomana and also accusations made that the government of trying to scramble TGVs media. They also tell followers that there are going to be “unlimited” strikes starting this coming Monday at May 13th. There were also accusations from TGVs media outlets that the government was importing weapons from China (that wasn’t too wild of a claim was it? The government obviously needs more weapons to shoot it’s own people right TGV?). China denies selling any weapons to Madagascar.

So there you have the last 3 days of what I have gleaned from various news sources. The only interesting points for me are that the amount of people attending the rallies seem to remain small, TGV announces the CNC and that there are now “unlimited” rallies starting this Monday. I am not so interested any more in talks of negotiation for the time being as I highly doubt that either side will be eager to get back into a room and get right back to another deadlock. TGV is going to want to pull off some more tricks before they ever go back to the negotiating table, so I am not holding my breath for talks anytime in the near future.

I was personally hoping that the break from all the turmoil and return to semi-normal life would have convinced the Malagasy people that the rallies haven’t been worth their while. But as with anything, there are some die-hard supporters of the movement that are convinced that the TGV can do no wrong and will always continue to show up whenever they are called.

What bothers me the most about the news is that TGV are now calling for “unlimited” strikes in the city. Are they considering what is going to happen to the city and the businesses? It has been stated many times previously that people in the city could barely operate with the rallies that occurred before, so wouldn’t this essentially shut down businesses for an “unlimited” time? Isn’t there some other place that they can do this that would not be so impactful? Wait… of course not… the place that garners the most attention is May 13th, and anything that makes local businesses and people suffer is sure to gain more attention for the TGV.

I have seen reports on the net that tourism in the country is basically dead with nearly 100% cancellations. All the tourism businesses are suffering immensely, if they are not already shut down. This turmoil is costing the tourism industry for this country $390 million US dollars, and is giving a bad name to Madagascar internationally.

What do you think of the CNC? What a clever way to remove yourself from the responsibility! What great way to defer responsibility for something going wrong than to blame it on 7 people instead of just 1. I wonder if this is the beginning of TGV pulling himself out of the spotlight, or perhaps this is how they think they could be more legitimate in the eyes of the Malagasy and international community.

But either way, it will is going to slow down the progress of TGV. Maybe it is just because I live where I do, but when I see the word “committee” it usually means that nothing gets done, or if it does, it doesn’t get done for a long time and it costs a lot of money. Does this mean that now before the TGV announces anything they have to come to a consensus amongst the 7 people? Whatever they do now is going to take a great deal longer than it did before when they just had 1 person making the decisions (or taking orders, whatever the case may be).

I guess it is going to be a real shame for the people of Madagascar for the next week or so. There are no announcements that have been made that really provide any direction on what either side is going to do next. The shake up in how the TGV operates, means that that there most likely won’t be any real direction from them for some time. You also have little to no info coming from the government (even during the negotiations it seems), so no direction there. So I guess this means that there will be daily disruptions of lives and businesses for the next week or two until someone breaks this deadlock. And even if the deadlock is broken, it will probably be because of some drastic event, which will will be good for no one.

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A return to rally?

Another Update – According to Sobika.com there are plans to gather tomorrow morning at 10am to go to Mahamasima to remove PDS Guy Rivo Randrianarisoa. So it looks like TGV is quick to get back to making trouble.

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Update – It would appear that I spoke too soon, shortly after I had posted my prediction, the talks broke off. Here is a quote directly from France24.com:

“From now on, the people will have its say. We are going to step up our claims and return to May 13 square,” Rajoelina said, in reference to the square in the capital where the opposition has been holding its rallies.

So it would appear that even as early as tomorrow, you will see more rallies, demands and misinformation.

It also appears that the talks were in a deadlock for the same reason I mentioned in my original post. Here is a quote from an article from china.org.cn:

Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital city, has insisted on the resignation of President Ravalomanana and his government while Ravalomanana, keeping in mind of the scheduled African Union Summit in the coming July, is eager to solve the domestic conflicts as early as possible.

President Ravalomanana reminded the opposition of the respect of the constitution as well as the legality of his presidency and government which came to power in 2002 after a national election at the end of 2001.

If  the resignation of the president continues to be a requirement for dialogue with TGV, then talks will never go anywhere. I don’t have to tell you how ludicrous I find the requirement from TGV. So, the odds are they could never move past this during the talks and wasted the potential for negotiations.

It is really too bad that this has happened as this is the best way to resolve the crisis peacefully. And since it appeared that neither side wanted to compromise it will probably take some time and perhaps some serious disruption before they will again return to the negotiating table. Get ready for round 2 of TGV disruptions. <Sigh>

Here is a good quote from a taxi driver in Tana (my thoughts exactly):

“If Rajoelina is talking about democracy then why doesn’t he wait for the next elections in 2011?” asked taxi driver Freddie Ranaitosoa.

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There isn’t much to speak of in terms of news since the negotiations between Andry and Marc have been taking place, but there does seem to be a sense of dissatisfaction coming from Andry. The quote that best describes the state of the negotiations comes from a report on CNBC:

“The meeting today was unsatisfactory. After an hour’s discussion the president asked for a break. Looking at how things went today, it is hardly worth continuing,” Rajoelina told reporters at his home.

What does this mean exactly? I think it is a sign. Initially I didn’t think that Andry would have ever given up his ridiculous notion that Ravalomanana should “resign” before negotiations can start, but when they did start I thought… perhaps he HAD given the notion up. But from the last few days of negotiation I have been getting the sense that for Andry, the resignation is still a requirement for negotiations to continue. So that fact that he previously said that he is going to see how negotiations go today, and that he is still demanding a resignation (more or less) I don’t expect that negotiations will go on too much longer.

I was very hopeful that these negotiations were going to be more serious than any of the other previous attempts, but I am starting to get the feeling that these negotiations are not going to be any different. I think initially the negotiations were done to appease the churches request, but they ultimately ended up serving as a really good distraction for TGV followers. The talks allowed for the recent failure to capture the ministries to slip a bit from the minds of TGV followers and will allow for whatever break in negotiations that “may” occur in the near future, to be used as fuel to incite his followers.

Before the talks it almost seems as though Andry was backed into a corner, not having a well thought out response to the loss of the recently captured ministries. The fact that he wanted march to Iavoloha I think shows this, as he would gain nothing politically by going there other than introducing the possibility for more violence. So at this point I am fully expecting that talks will break down whenever it is most convenient for TGV to break them down. Once broken down, TGV will provide some grandious reason why this happened (surely one that will infuriate TGV followers) and then we will see renewed rallies at 13 May. He has even hinted at having a rally by end of week on sobika.com stating “suspension does not mean a ban”.

But this is just sort of a predictive entry for me, again, I haven’t seen anything concrete (between yesterday when I started this post and this morning), so let’s hope I am wrong and that there is not a break down in talks.  But the silence is doesn’t bode well and has me wondering. What do you think will happen?

Discussions continue hooray!

Update:

The meetings have finished for the day and according to sobika.com it appears that Andry Rajoelina came out very dissatisfied with his meeting with Marc. According to the site Andry requesting the release of Ranjivason and the resignation of government ministers (and Marc??? Not clear on the page). Even though it is not exactly clear, you get the feeling that he seems to be back at making demands/threats and the feeling that they could hit the streets back to May 13th if things don’t go his way in tomorrow’s meeting.

Will this mean that the march on Iavoloha will continue? What could he possibly do next if he did return to protest? I guess we will see, but since the return will be the result of failed negotiations, you can bet he would want to make a point in the next rally.

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It would seem that the negotiations between the two political rivals are still occurring, which is great news. I think everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for the “Monday” meeting that had caused the long march that was planned for Iavoloha to be put on hiatus. But it would appear that Monday came and went with no word of negotiations breaking off, but also, no word of what is being negotiated. If I were to guess, I would say that we are at this point because Andry Rajoelina has very few moves left and little leverage. For talks to break down now, we would need to have some catasrophic problem that would force Andry to go back to the people and startup the rallies anew. Even if Andry wanted to start trouble now, the SADC has announced that they are ready to send their army in to keep the peace in both Madagascar and the Congo. So if there were to be more marches, you would bet that there would be a bigger military presence to deal with so I bet the incentive to do something outrageous like walking to Iavoloha would not happen any more.

Here is a link to the conditions for negotiations between Marc and Andry.  Basically they have agreed to the following in order to engage in negotiations:

  • Stop all forms of incitement to violence
  • To stop all forms of provocation, denigration, and disseminating false information through the Audiovisual.
  • To cease all acts of looting and vandalism to property of individuals and the State.
  • To stop any demonstration in the street.
  • To stop any form of arrest and prosecution of a political nature.

As you can see it is rather front loaded with stuff for Andry and his media network. There would seem to be only 1 item in here for Marc, which is to stop the threat of arrest. As of Monday morning all 50 people that were arrested when the 4 ministries were reclaimed have been released. Theodore Ranjivason is still under arrest, and I haven’t seen any news as to why he is still arrested or when he is going to be released.

So all and all we have good news Monday that negotiations are continuing and we have assurances that there will be no more demonstrations, incitement to violence, provocation or looting in Tana. This means that people (like my family) that have been locked up in their houses pretty much the whole crisis can now come outside and try and live a normal life. And with some promise of stability businesses and hopefully tourism can resume.

I will keep my eye on the situation and keep updating the blog with information as I see it. But hopefully now it will just involve minor updates on negotiations…

On the road to resolution

There are a lot of things that happened today that I did not expect in the least.  It was just yesterday after the government reclaimed 4 ministries from TGV that Andry said that he was going to take his followers on a long march to Iavoloha. This is what everyone was worried about, we all feared that Andry was going to take his followers across another “red zone” and that there would be more violence.

But instead, Andry received a letter from the FFKM inviting him to talks with Marc Ravalomanana. And that was basically it from TGV, the crowd didn’t do anything but leave peacefully today which is great.

Following that, there was an announcement from the government that FFKM, Ravalomanana and TGV had agreed that there would be no further violence. There was also reports that TGV has accepted the prerequisites to negotiotiations:

  • No further rallies at 13th May
  • No misinformation on his radio or television network

Starting Monday, there will be “real” negotiations between TGV and Ravalomanana, finally, a good start to peace and no more nonsense (hopefully).

It makes you wonder though, what would cause TGV to back down on this march at the last minute? What would make him show his followers that he is backing down? Surely this cannot look good on him considering how worked up he got over the sudden loss of the ministries.

I think it is because he is running out of room to manoever, what would he have done if the march was unsuccessful? He must have a sense that his followers are getting tired of not making any progress, and whatever progress they do make is snatched away in the blink of an eye.

But what is in the negotiations for TGV? I have read on Twitter that there is going some power given to a new PM for transition? Not quite clear, but there obviously must be something there for everyone. Time will tell I guess.

Now that he has backed down and is going into negotiations, I don’t expect that he will return to his rallies and marches again unless something seriously breaks down. Let’s hope that life can finally get back to normal.

Like ninjas in the night

What a great day! I did not see this coming, and I think most of the bloggers were starting to wonder why Ravalomanana was so quiet. I guess we know now!

So at the end of the day yesterday TGV was celebrating the capture of 4 ministries and had many photo ops of their ministers sitting in their new positions. I was sitting here wondering what the heck the government would do to respond to TGV breaking the law by occupying the offices of elected officials. Then Bam! In the dead of night they swoop in like a band of ninjas and take all 4 ministries and arrest 50 opposition supporters in the process.

Finally some arrests! I guess there might have been a matter of timing, but we needed to start showing people that they just can’t get away with what they are doing, especially when it is blatantly illegal.

But of course, this action does not go without any response. Apparently, since they are probably stumbling to explain to their followers how their most recent success disappeared in the blink of an eye TGV is stating that 8 people have died. There has been no proof of this as yet… but if their control of 80% of the army is any indication of how truthful their information is (especially since it was the army that took back the 4 ministries), then this will most likely end up being yet another hoax to infuriate it’s followers into performing some sort of action. We do however have statements coming from both sides conflicting with each other so it would appear that we are having a competition to get the word out. You can read the release from the gendarmerie here (A translated version is below).

I am hoping that now that the government has shown that it alone controls the ministries that it will now keep the media pumping out truthful information to counter all the misinformation that TGV is putting out. It would be great if this shattered the support base of the TGV, especially since they were very quick to come up with the deaths 0f 8 people for their short rally today. But as hopeful as I am I know that there will be another counterstrike by TGV and his followers will show up again and again, day after day no matter what they see.

The problem is that TGV is running out of room to manoever, so every subsequent thing they try to do is going to get increasingly more desperate. AndryDago, has recently blogged that they intend to march on “a place where Marc Ravalomanana is”. Here is a excerpt directly from his blog:

“Today during the speech of Andry “TGV” Rajoelina in the place of May 13th, he declared that there will be another march for tomorrow. He said that the destination will be a “place where Marc Ravalomanana is”. He then added: “bring foods and water, the walk will be tiring! It will be far!”
Everyone guessed that he talked about the presidential palace of Iavoloha (in the southern part of Antananarivo)
He also said that tonight he will meet some generals from the Army.”

So does this mean that they want to take control of the presidential residence? Or force some kind of confrontation between the two leaders? I can’t see straight off the bat what the benefit would be to marching to the residence of Marc Ravalomanana (that I am sure will be heavily guarded tomorrow). He is also supposed to be talking with the military this afternoon, about what, I don’t know. But the military has already made it clear that it will not choose sides, so I don’t think TGV gains anything by this but PR.

What I think it is going to come down to in the near future is that TGV is going to break down and re-enter talks, which would be a good thing. The only bad thing about it is that the talks could lead to some sort of power-sharing deal that I do not think that Andry TGV deserves in the slightest. But if anything ends the political crisis that is happening there now, I am game… I just hope it is just some relatively small position in the government not enough to seriously cause a disruption in its governance.

We shall see how tomorrow plays out. I have updated my links pages with the news reports that I could find.

Madagascar’s Political Crisis

Everything old is new again…

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more about “Madagascar’s Political Crisis“, posted with vodpod

Everything old is new again…

As I suspected TGV made full use of women and children today on it’s march on the ministries, and it would appear that their gamble has paid off. At the end of the day on February 19th, 2009 TGV has taken control of the following ministries:

  • The ministry of Interior
  • The ministry of Education
  • The ministry of Security
  • The ministry of Planning

TGV has changed the locks on all ministries and has it’s people guarding the buildings, so it has effectively taken control of… “buildings”. It is still not clear to me (and I doubt it is to anyone else) what it is exactly that they gain by having these buildings other than the ability to finally show TGV followers that they accomplished something. Does anyone think that they can just plop their ministers in and in the days/weeks ahead they would work just fine with the rest of the country? People have to remember that the people that are being “installed” are not elected, they were chosen by Mr. TGV and you can be assured that it wasn’t in the people’s best interest that he chose them. Does the rest of the country get a say in what happens in Madagascar or is it only the fluctuating 10 – 25,000 people that follow TGV that do?

This whole crisis is unfair to a country who has already had to suffer through a crisis in 2002 and try to recover economically since then. The difference between then and now is that the crisis revolved around the results of an election, not the government shutting down a TV station because of security reasons. If this crisis were spawned over the same reasons, it would be understandable, but we have yet to hear a good reason why this crisis started in the first place. TGV also has to provide a good explanation as to how they plan to improve Madagascar. If people really did look at what TGV is doing they would see that instead of improving Madagascar TGV has been devastating its tourism industry and local businesses.

And where this whole crisis is heading? Who knows? Will it end in a military crack down? The arrest of the TGV “transitional” government? The collapse of the existing government? On so many occasions I thought for certain that TGV had outlived it’s usefulness and the people would have either stopped showing up or turn against the TGV. I thought for sure that the financial implications of not working for so long or the devastating effects of the looting would have been enough end this crisis, but it appears that it doesn’t make any difference. I was almost convinced enough to say that stopping TGV from installing its ministers at every turn would have been enough to upset its followers into turning or not following, but their breakthrough today ruined that thought.

One thing is for certain though, this crisis is not going to be ended via dialog even though that is the only way that makes sense. TGV has already stated that it is not going to negotiate unless Ravalomanana is no longer president. The funny thing about the dialog is that we now have 6 mediators involved with the most recent President Abdoulaye Wade who is accepting a request to mediate the crisis. How many mediators do we need to broker a deal? Will it even/ever work? Since TGV clearly doesn’t want to negotiate is there even a point? The only good thing about the announcement is that President Abdoulaye Wade helped to resolve the crisis in 2002, so hopefully it could at least mean a little bit of progress.

I still think this is an all or nothing deal though, I don’t think any amount of mediating is going to change the direction of TGV. No one really knows who is behind the movement, but it has been said on several occasions that people believe this crisis stems from the old politicians that were with Ratsiraka.  I found this article today on IRIN news that has this quote:

“Rajoelina is only the tip of the iceberg,” an analyst who wished to remain nameless told IRIN. “He is just a spokesman and everyone with a grievance against the president has got behind him, but this is really the politics of manipulation and revenge.”

Maybe it is all about revenge? Maybe the old politicians want to put Ravalomanana through what their government went through in 2002? Whatever the case, there is no justification for it… the longer this goes on, the longer everyone in the country hurts.

I think today “could” have been much worse than it was and thankfully the people were let through so they could occupy the empty buildings. The problem now is though, because they have actually captured these buildings it will now be viewed as a “success” and no doubt all the TGV propaganda machines are hard at work trying to tell everyone how amazing this is. They are also probably trying to tell everyone that the reason they were let through today was because they control of the army. The real reason that they were let through is so that we would not have a bloody weekday to add to the list. Hopefully this does not cause their support base to grow, because again I am starting to wonder what the government can do to counter this blatant disregard for law. I hope that they just get down to work arresting everyone involved because I am sure that it is not legal to take a government building as your own and change the locks. Actually… part of me was hoping that there were police inside waiting to arrest the ministers that broke in… that would have been a great surprise! What a let down.

I can’t wait to see what the government and the international community will have to say on the events that transpired today.  But until then, above is an interesting video that I found from Reuters on the crisis (had trouble embedding for some reason). Also, here is the link to the 2nd part of the Deconstruction of the crisis.