Victims of Misinformation

I have been trying to keep the blog up to date as much as possible, but with the speed of the news that is coming out of Madagascar and lack of personal time, it has been hard to strike a balance. I have also been trying to come up with a timeline that I can put up somewhere on this website that will follow the events from start to finish in English. You might have noticed that there is a page called “Crisis Timeline” I am going to try and put the updates there starting from 01/26/09 to now…. there is a lot of information so I don’t have any idea how I am going to fit it all on one page without having to make people scroll forever.

As for the news, what can you say? On 03/11/09 we were all petrified that there was going to be a military takeover and that Madagascar could possibly end up falling into another form of military dictatorship, because of course, the first thing that people think about when thinking of military  rule is 26 years of Didier Ratsiraka. The good news is… there is no longer a 72 hour deadline. The bad news is… the deadline was cancelled by the “new” chief of the army Col. André Ndriarijaona because the former chief Gen. Edmond Rasolomahandry was forced to resign by the mutineering soldiers from CAPSAT.  This is a bad sign for 2 reasons:

  1. Normally the Chief of the General-Staff for the army is appointed by the president.
  2. So, if the new Chief is not chosen by the president and does not take orders from the government, then who do they take their orders from?

So far, media has reported that the commanders of nine military barracks in Antananarivo have joined forces with some 600 rebel troops of the CAPSAT. Clearly from the statement that they “follow their hearts” and the fact that some soldiers have been seen using the TGV “peace” symbol that at least some of them are aligned TGV. It seems are being toyed and TGV wants to make us question everything. An anonymous observer of the military situation states (TopMada.com): “To avoid panic and the worsening situation, it is very important that people are vigilant in relation to rumors and brainwashing (…) It must make a clear distinction between the ‘rebels’ and the army . The army is legalistic. She claims, but remains united to the side of the Gendarmerie and the Police to protect the population. The ‘rebels’ are composed of real and fake soldiers to overthrow the power, “. Could it be that they are just removing the appointed chief because of the 72 hour ultimatum and wish to keep their position neutral? Or could this new chief be someone appointed by the TGV? I guess we will never know until it is all over, but I would like to think that the military wanted to leave resolving the crisis to the politicians and the protection to them. I am certain though that TGV will do their best to misrepresent the military in order to trick everyone into thinking they control more of the military than they really do.

So was it just the TGV rebels that started forcing resignations? The resignations started with  Gen. Edmond Rasolomahandry, followed by Mamy Solofoniaina Ranaivoniarivo who just a month ago replaced Cecile Manorohanta as Defence Minister. Both men were held hostage by the mutineers until they had signed their resignations after which they were set free. Yesterday (03/12/09) there was a meeting between Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara and the opposition Prime Minister Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja and there were rumours that the army/rebels had surrounded the residence (not confirmed), but there were no details on the agenda or the outcome of that meeting. This morning the mutineering military submitted their demands to the president which included threatening undertones that harm would come to Marc Ravalomanana or his family should he not step down. Col. Noel Rakotonandrasa (part of the mutinied military) was quoted today as saying “For sure there will be no resistance. But if there is any, there’s other solutions we can discuss with the presidential guard. We want the president to go, so he should resign at once.”. This and the armies/rebels demands have now prompted fears of  that the mutineering military will attempt to assassinate Marc Ravalomanana or his family. Marc Ravalomanana acknowledges as much in the same article by stating “My assassination would not be in your interest. The people would suffer, and the international community would not accept it. Once again, I call on the army and the forces of order to remain united, and remain neutral.”

At the moment it is really unclear how much of the military is now following Col. André Ndriarijaona as it is very hard with the media in Madagascar to tell what is true and what is not. One could speculate that there may be a good part of army and police force now under his control since Ravalomanana and pro-TIM radio stations have called upon supporters for the protection of the ministries as well as the presidential palace. But it will probably turn out to be an illusion that was fabricated by TGV and media to make it seem to everyone that they have full control. There was an interesting press kit that was just released today by AllAfrica.com that states this as background for the crisis:

“For over two months, the movement led by the former mayor of the capital, Andry Rajoelina, has been grinding the country to a stand-still, refusing to dialogue unless the President resigns, calling all citizens to strikes, encouraging looting and violence. His supporters have sent threats to Ministers, senators, deputies, military and police officers, schools, and businesses to the individuals and their families. Mr Rajoelina’s private radio station, Viva, has been broadcasting propaganda, threatening anyone who might resist their movement and inciting the army to insurgency. After each rally organised by the movement, shops were looted and burnt, the house of an advisor to the President was pillaged and set alight. Andry Rajoelina proclaimed himself President of the “High Authority for Transition”, began naming his “own” Prime Minister and Ministers, and ordered all civil servants to follow his command. He called for his supporters to storm the Ministries, four of which were broken into by his supporters, who were later removed by the legal armed forces. The former mayor continued to ask for the President to step down, refusing to negotiate, even though the President repeatedly agreed to dialogue.”

It does sound very biased, but if you think about it, most of the information there is true. There have been many fires, break ins, looting and propaganda ever since TGV movement had begun. You hear stories about people being afraid of voicing any sort of political opinion for fear of their life, and just recently 5 of the publications in Madagascar have stopped publishing their news because of threats against their buildings and reporters.

The real problem is the consequences of what Andry Rajoelina is doing and has done. We have already seen the enourmous loss of life, jobs, and personal property that are a direct result of TGV rallies. As recently reported, there was hundreds of millions of Ariary in damages, and it is going to take quite some time before any of the buildings that were destroyed will be rebuilt, if they are going to be rebuilt. The tourism industry is in dire straights, and there is no telling how much of the industry will remain or if people will be comfortable travelling to Madagascar after the crisis is over. Foreign investment will surely be scaled back, and depending on the outcome of the crisis could be significantly less. But the absolute worst part about all of what Andry Rajoelina is doing is that it is being done in a non-democratic way. There is absolutely no way the rest of the world would ever support a non-elected government that was forced upon the Malagasy. There have been statements from the EU/AU/Vatican and pretty much everyone else that will condemn this, and would not contribute another dollar to help Madagascar. Without this money, Madagascar is going to either be in a complete standstill in terms of progress, or worse, will start to rapidly decline. If he was so concerned about the poor people he would not be moving forward in an anti-democratic way to take control of the country, he would leave it to people across the country to elect him or the next president in 2011.

I have found some interesting articles that you might want to take a look at here:

Madagascar, Mired in Poverty, Lures Exxon Oil Search

Millennium Challenge Corporation

Why Madagascar is poor

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2 Responses

  1. I’m so grateful to have found your blog. I’m reading it daily and have directed others to it – as well as to your flickr photostream. We have many friends in Madagascar and have been working with partners there since 1999 – in Tana, Toliare, in the Mikea Forest.( I am supposed to be there in June/July – and hope I can still get in the country…) But I am grateful to find such a great resource as your blog. Thank you!!! Please know that I – and many others – share your concern and we are praying for the people of Madagascar.

  2. Thanks Patt!

    It is good to hear feedback! I am glad you find the site informative and that you frequently visit. I am hoping to see a democratic end to the crisis, but if TGV is making every excuse not to talk then I am afraid that this will drag out at least until Andy is backed into a corner.

    I hope you will be able take your trip this year, it is always nice to visit Mada. I will try to keep up with the information as it comes out and keep consolidating the media and information I come across.

    Take care,

    Tgoose

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