Madagascar “may” have been abandonned

Just have to put this post up quick because I am seeing conflicting stories…

Yesterday I posted that AU suspended talks indefinitely, but afterwards I am starting to see conflicting reports that all parties involved are gathering to meet on August 5, 2009.  Here are some excerpts from a Yahoo AFP article:

“We are here to see that everybody meets in Maputo on August 5 and we shall settle questions that are still outstanding,” said Edem Kodjo, mediating on behalf of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (French-speaking countries).On July 22, Chissano managed to win an agreement “in principle” that the four parties will all meet in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, early in August.

“The lack of dialogue has so far been an obstacle to any solution,” Chissano said at the time.

“The sooner this meeting is held the better. The parties have accepted the idea of meeting in Mozambique, but I still have to consult with authorities in my country.”

So… I guess we will see who is out of date… if it is Reuters, or if it is Yahoo and other related AFP articles.

There really are no other articles than the 2 that I have found so far… and it does seem likely that the AU would just completely abandon talks in the country… so I am inclined to believe the Yahoo article.

I guess we just have to wait and see the report coming out of negotiations for Madagascar to confirm which is true. But if it does turn out to be true, then I guess my last post/rant applies. 🙂

Madagascar has been abandonned

The news that is probably going to be all over the blogosphere today will be the ceasation of AU negotiations with politicians in Madagascar to work towards a democratic solution to the illegal government that currently occupies office in the country.

I was quite shocked when I read the article, and even to this moment am trying to make sense of the AU’s new stance because what is that really saying about the AU?

Here are some excerpts from a Reuters article:

“The international mediators have decided to take a break in their efforts,” Ouedraogo told reporters in the capital Antananarivo.

“We are not disengaging with Madagascar, nor abandoning the process. Our work remains the same: to find a long-lasting peaceful solution.”

“Any attempt to find a unilateral way out of the crisis by one or other of the movements will receive neither the backing nor the endorsement of the international community,” it read.

Ouedraogo and his U.N. counterpart were expected to leave Madagascar within the next few days.

If they aren’t disengaging or abandoning the process, then why would they be taking a break from it? There may not be any progress, but is that really a reason to disengage now? I was sure that the driving thought behind the negotiations were to continue to try to discuss a solution with all parties towards a peaceful, democratic solution.

How can the AU say they are not abandonning Madagascar when they do not provide a timeline for the break and also state that any attempt made outside of the now abandonned talks will not be endorsed? The AU is handing the country to the HAT indirectly and causing countless poor people to suffer because any money that comes into Madagascar is undoubtedly handled by the HAT government, so they will never see it.

None of us really believed that there would be any progress in the near future, but the fact that people were meeting and trying to negotiate meant that something was happening. Now what? Are we to expect that there will be elections as promised by the end of 2009? If there are elections by the end of the year, are we expecting them to be transparent? The AU and UN representatives are leaving Madagascar, who else will be departing now that the AU talks have ‘failed’?

If there is anyone than can be blamed for this, it can only be the AU. The very idea that being ‘inclusive’ means that we should include 2 additional past presidents in peace talks was ludicrous from the beginning! No one knows why they were involved, but we all know that they were the reason that talks had never gone anywhere. But the AUs insistence on including them in dialogue accounts for the complete lack of progress in resolving the current situation in Madagascar.

So are we or the people of Madagascar to believe that after this ‘break’ the AU will be coming back with the same urgency and prioty that it had before the break? Or even that they would come back from the break at all? I wouldn’t blame anyone at all for being skeptical of AU talks resuming as politicians tend to say one thing and do another. I personally think that this will become an excuse for the AU to drop the priority of the Madagascar coup down to relieve pressure on them from not resolving the coup. They are just waiting for the news stories to fade from the internet and from minds of people.

And why are talks suddenly ‘failed’ when the news all over the place yesterday were stating that there will be another meeting in Mozambique in early August:

In a communique issued after the consultative meeting, the contact group said the meeting, under the auspices of the AU, will take place under the leadership of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, assisted by the mediation team of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the special envoys of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), the AU and the United Nations.

Chissano, the SADC mediator, “in close collaboration with the special envoys of the AU, the OIF and the UN, will work out modalities for a preparatory mission to Madagascar next week to facilitate the smooth and successful conduct of the meeting of the leaders of the Malagasy camps, and will liaise with all the Malagasy parties both within and outside Madagascar,” said the communique.

Are they actually cancelled? It sounds very peculiar that they are suddenly off… it almost makes me question the Reuters article that states that they are. Is there something going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of?

And what of the people of Madagacar? How would this affect them? The HAT is already running low on funding because practically all donor money has ceased (accounting for 70% of the funding for the country). And there are prospects of Madagascar being suspended from US AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which could completely devastate the Madagascar textile industry which is a $600 million a year industry (missed it in my last post):

“If that happens, no U.S. buyer will risk placing an order in Madagascar,” said John Hargreaves, acting head of the Madagascar Export Processing Zone Association (GEFP).

Half of the island’s 150 factories — employing 50,000 workers — supply major U.S. stores including Wal-Mart and Bloomingdale’s, and sports brands such as Puma and Adidas, according to industry observers.

The textile sector accounts for about 6.5-8 percent of Madagascar’s GDP, with almost half of textile exports destined for the United States.

“As you know, respect for the rule of law is a condition of eligibility outlined in the AGOA legislation,” wrote Florizelle Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, in the letter seen by Reuters.

“In those cases where the President determines that a country no longer meets AGOA’s eligibility standards, that country’s eligibility for AGOA’s trade benefits is revoked effective January 1st of the following year.”

So if the HAT is broke, what is happening with people’s jobs? What is happening with private businesses? How will people cope with the massive losses that will no doubt occur so long as Rajoelina is in office? Madagascar is already poor and it’s people do not need things to be delayed or postponed… some were already having a hard time when things were good, I can’t imagine how they are doing now. Reminds me of some lyrics from a Linkin Park song (Hands held high):

“When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die”

If the AU is playing hard to get and is waiting for Rajoelina to come to them, now is not the time.

Oh… and I couldn’t end a blog post without mentioning that Andry Rajoelina has hijacked another plane. Its not really clear to me where the plane was going to, but apparently the passengers were suprised that they had to stop in Antananarivo for 90 minutes for a “technical problem of cooling the device.” The real reason of course is that Andry Rajoelina had to make an appointment in Tulear…. here is the article in French:

TGV diverting a plane

HAT going bust?

Over the last week there has been some interesting news and for the most part seems to indicate that the HAT is running low on cash. Here are some of the news stories that have occurred since the 8th of July:

  • Saudi Prince Alwaleed visited Madagascar for only 5 hours.
  • Finance minister Benja Razafimahaleo states that he has a 10 million USD loan from OPEC.
  • Michèle Ratsivalaka, TGV installed mayor of Tana was ousted by city council on a vote of 44 to 10.
  • The HAT government has agreed to hold elections by the end of the year.
  • The legalist movement goes on tour.

Saudi Prince visits Madagascar:

So despite what the HAT may say about how good their resources are, and how they are cleaning up the supposed financial mess left for them by Ravalomanana (if you call mess economic growth), all the news on the internet would say that the HAT is steadily moving towards financial difficulty.

There are many articles on Reuters that relate to this, but here is an excerpt from one that provides a quick forecast on just how long the HAT government could last:

However, analysts have questioned how long Rajoelina’s administration can survive without donor aid, which makes up some 70 percent of the country’s budget.

“The government does not have much time given the significant foreign component of the budget. (However) private investment may also be a valuable alternative through FDI flows, and for an injection of foreign exchange,” said Lydie Boka of the risk-consultancy StrategieCo..

Other important donors to have frozen non-emergency assistance include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States and Norway. The SADC suspended Madagascar’s membership after the power-grab in March.

Right there you can see that the international community has essentially wiped out 70% of the money that the Malagasy government has to use to operate. Now if they are only operating at 30% capacity and have recently paid quite a bit of money to keep the military happy, what money is left in the government coffers? Probably not much. And with all of the advertising (money and jestures) the HAT has to do to try and convince Malagasy citizens and the international community that they are a “good” government (if that is possible)… the HAT government is probably running on fumes. You can also wager a guess that because the HAT government actually agreed to having elections by the end of 2009 that they are in desparate need of that frozen 70% aid and want to have international recognition.

While we are “reading” into things, you can probably also take something away from Prince Alwaleeds 5 hour visit to Madagascar and the very few visits that have been reported with the Saudi investors. Obviously a 5 hour could not amount to much, and since we have not seen anything come of the 2 billion dollars from the memorandum of understanding for projects that was signed around 05/06/2009:

Even back at this time you can see that the HAT is already spinning the news to make it seem as if there is no problem, that the investment will be BIG and that essentially this will solve all of Madagascar’s problems. One thing I didn’t notice, but just did when posting the link was the fact that the Saudi’s refused to quantify their investment in this memorandum. So since then, all the way up to now we have heard virtually nothing on the money and have only heard rumours of a water export type project.  Given that the two most recent Saudi visits have not yielded any firm investment pledges it would appear that the HAT having a financial saviour has been nothing more but smoke and mirrors from them.

The government has said new investors are ready to fill the void should traditional donors shun Madagascar. But two recent visits by Saudi delegations yielded no firm investment pledges.

Benja Razafimahaleo states that he has a 10 million USD loan from OPEC:

So based on the above information, it should be no surpise that I am calling out the Benja Razafimahaleo statement of the 10 million USD loan complete and utter BS. When was there an announcment that he was going to visit the US to discuss anything? Why would the US allow him to enter the country if they have no business with the illegal government? I highly doubt that Benja had even set foot on US ground, and I would think that if there was any sort of a deal signed with OPEC that it would be in the news, if only for the fact that OPEC would be conflicting directly with the US’ stance on the illegal government of Madagascar. I can not find any other information on this other than the below link:

The minister also commented on his trip to Washington from June 18 to July 3, saying that the Madagascan government had contracted a loan of 10 million U.S. dollars from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development on July 2, 2009.

I hope this means that the HAT government has cried wolf  for too long and that now anything they say becomes completely unbelievable (not that it really was in the first place).

The ouster of TGV Antanananarivo mayor Michèle Ratsivalaka:

I found this to be an interesting story simply because is it is a form of rebellion against the HAT government who has been installing it’s own people in important places across Madagascar. We don’t know how the HAT will deal with this at the moment, but the fact that a municipal government is kicking out a federally installed politician is fantastic and I think it does 2 things:

  1. Breaks the long political silence that has been created by fear of repercussions on opposing the HAT.
  2. Starts to show that people are starting to have enough of the HAT federal government.

It is great that after so long, finally, someone is booting out an unjustly “installed” political figure. You might say that the installation of Guy Rivo Randrianarisoa by Ravalomanana to replace Andry Rajoelina is also unjust… but I think I would have to disagree. In the case of Guy Rivo Randrianarisoa, Andry Rajoelina was so busy pursuing his presidential aspirations that he was neglecting his duties as mayor. Sure it worked to Marc Ravalomanana’s advantage to boot him out to try and discredit him, but still, you had a mayor that was never in office, busy protesting daily instead of working with city council. I am not sure what he was like before the protests, but from what I read it wasn’t much better. This ejection of Michèle Ratsivalaka is basically the same thing… she was installed by the HAT, but apparently was not doing her job according to these links anyway:

If she is voted out by 44 of 54 people, there has to be a reason. Hopefully this will begin a whole spur of HAT rejections… but perhaps I am just being hopeful.

Elections have been moved up to the end of the year:

As I mentioned earlier, this is probably the most significant indicator that the HAT is in trouble. Previous to the news on the HAT accepting the elections you had seen in the news that they liked to show that they were in control and did not want to agree to anything that was proposed. They wanted to convince everyone in Madagascar and internationally that they were going to be setting the rules and setting up a “National Conference” to prepare for elections when they saw fit.

Suddenly, they are accepting international demands for the quickest possible election? That’s a complete about face I would say… it is pretty indicative of problems they are having or may have soon. Here is a Xinhuanet article on the shortened transitional period:

“The high transitional authority agreed to shorten the transitional period and to hold a national election before the end of 2009 due to difficulties to reach a compromise between Madagascan stakeholders,” Rajoelina said in a debate organized by the official Madagascan television channel on Friday.

The announcement was made at a time when the special envoy of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Joachim Chissano, is visiting the island country to seek a peaceful solution to the current political crisis in the country which began last December.

Rajoelina insisted on holding a national referendum on a new constitution in September following a national conference, scheduled to be held soon.

You can see from the very last line that it seems rushed and that it seems as though Rajoelina is desperate to put in a new constitution before the elections that would no doubt allow him to run for president (which would explain the announcement of TGV becoming a political party).

I bet that in the next few weeks/months of negotiations that you are going to start to see concessions from the HAT simply because agreeing to this new transitional schedule smells of desperation. I think that they are facing the need for the missing 70% of funding and finally realize that they cannot possibly go it alone and will have to start cooperating with the international community to get the money that they want.

Perhaps this problem will be solved at the end of this year and we can look forward to a better year in 2010 for Madagascar… or, maybe it is just me being hopeful again.

Legalist movement is going on tour to promote the return of Marc Ravalomanana:

Lastly I wanted to mention this because I have always had the fear that the rallies for those who oppose the HAT were going to somehow die out should there not be any progress. I am glad to know that my fear is unfounded and that there is a growing mass of dissatisfaction with the HAT government in many cities across Madagascar.

So much so that the legalists are basically going on tour from city to city to rally for the return of Marc Ravalomanana and to get rid of the HAT government.

At the end of week, the leaders of the pro-Ravalomanana demonstrations went to the city of Antsirabe, 170 km to the south of Antananarivo. They mobilized the local population to support the call for the exiled president’s return. It’s finally not a too complicated operation in a city massively supporting the exiled president’s cause.

Since some weeks, sensitization rallies have also been organized in the peripheral townships of the capital.

Today, the pro-Ravalomanana intends to regain the other main cities of the Great Isle’s different regions. A rally is already programmed for the next incoming days in Toliara (South) and Antsiranana (North).

Keep up the good work guys!

Hopefully this thing is coming to a head and the people of Madagascar can return to the normal life they knew with a legitimate government.

    Non-Humanitarian Aid Frozen.

    Well, in light of all of the recent series of set backs and bad news there is one little gem of good news, the EU has formally decided the freeze all aid that was to go to Madagascar, which amounts to about 630 million euros.

    This has got to be a major blow to the HAT as this pretty much freezes up all aid from every major supporter:

    • US
    • Norway
    • IMF
    • EU

    And I have to say that I am glad… at the very least because it shows that none of the donor countries will tolerate an illegal government and also because it will put more non-violent pressure on the government to reconsider what it has been doing and head towards a democratic resolution.

    Not that I expect them to give up power any time soon, I expect that they will cling to power as long as possible by selling what they can and making as many deals as possible with any one who will entertain them. But should all of that fall through, you will see a new found sense of co-operation with them and the AU negotiator.

    The progress on the crisis will remain slow I suspect,  it will probably be several months still until we see anything major occur. I guess this is the downside of a non-violent solution, but anything is better than making the already suffering Malagasy suffer even more in a war between the corrupt Malagasy army and the SADC forces (had COMESA convinced them to intervene).

    There has been a rumour over the last little while that Marc Ravalomanana will be hiring mercenaries to invade Madagascar to restore him to power since the AU will not. I think it is a complete untruth and is probably some misinformation that the HAT is trying to spread around to explain their military purchases or odd behaviour. It was most likely the article where Rajoelina stated:

    There are people who are even ready to come and retake power with mercenaries. Everyone is talking about it. And that is what Mr Ravalomanana is doing,”

    Why on earth would Ravalomanana at this point want to go against the direction of the international community and become no better than Rajoelina and the HAT? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Not only that, who would be funding an army big enough to go to Madagascar and do what he needs done? Would he really want to spend his remaining money on something that in the end, would not benefit him? I doubt it. The rumour is bull. Ravalomanana will be awaiting the collapse of the HAT or a break-through in negotiations because this is the only legitimate way back to power, and the only way back without bloodshed.

    So get ready to wait some more… it will be a while. But now that all funding has been cut, we should see better progress than we had previously.

    Here are some AP articles on the EU’s rejection of the HAT government and freezing of aid:

    Nothing new except possibly 23 helicopters…

    So as you may or may not have noticed, there is practically no news since COMESA suggested that they assist Marc Ravalomanana return to Madagascar by military force. It would seem that now that the HAT knows that there will be no military force  coming to oust them, they can take their sweet time doing whatever it is that they want to do. They are just playing a wait/stall game now, and unless something drastic happens between now and the time of the elections they will remain in power.

    That sucks, but I guess that is the way things are when we depend upon negotiations and consessions right? We just have to sit and wait for 30 days before former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano fails in negotiating a deal with 4 people that have very different ideas and demands. Guess we will have to see… but you can bank that Ratsiraka will demand amnesty so he can return, which won’t happen. Ravalomanana will demand that he comes back to Madagascar, that won’t happen (unless of course rumours are true that he is assembling a mercenary force to take back his presidency). Albert Zafy will just be there watching with his little demands, critisizing the HAT the whole way.

    What was interesting this week though was the rumour and articles that the HAT is going to be purchasing 23 Alouette II helicopters from Belgium to protect Madagascar air from the neverending threat of  impending mercenaries to return Marc Ravalomanana to power and save threaten Malagasy citizens. Here are some of the links, and do take them with a grain of salt because they are from the Times of Madagascar, who I had recently caught with an article based on an urban legend. They had an article that supposedly showed AF447 breaking apart in mid-air… you could even see the tail end breaking a way and a guy flying out the back… amazing photo right? A person not fearing for their own life decides to stand up and take a picture just in the knick of time and their camera somehow survives the jets plummet to earth. Turns out that it is just a screenshot of TV’s lost… here are the links (if they are still up):

    Madagascar Times AF447 article

    Urban Legend explanation

    Here are the links for the supposed helicopter purchases (Fr):

    Link 1

    Link 2

    So let me get this straight (if true), Ravalomanana was ousted because he bought a private jet for his presidency (which Rajoelina has already proved wasn’t a bad idea with his hijacking). But, Rajoelina and the HAT who are having trouble keeping up with the bills and paying anyone but the military…. is now (according to the article and rumours) spending 3 million euro on these 23 helicopters?

    Is that not insane? He will no doubt justify it by stating that they need to defend Madagascar (or rather the HAT) from the threat of a mercenary invasion… but where exactly is this money coming from? Is there still a secret supporter out there… (France?)… that is helping out with this? I only bring up France because of their participation in the Malagasy independance day celebrations despite the fact that Sarkozy rejected the government… see this article.

    This again just sickens me (if true) that the HAT got to power preaching that the government was corrupt (but is systematically replacing most federal/regional politicians), that they were mispending because of a jet (when they are now going to be buying 23 helicopters to defend from invading mercenaries), that there was no freedom of speech (when they have shut down almost all radio/news sources that don’t speak kindly of them) and that “the people” were being repressed, not being allowed to demonstrate at May 13th square (when they have not allowed the legalists the same privelage at either May 13th or at Ambohijatovo).

    It is still a travesty, and I am still pissed that all that has been happening and will continue to happen are talks that will never succeed, not while the HAT has money anyway. Something more needs to be done… but what?