Meet the new Ratbag government, same as the old Ratbag government

While I am glad that Antananarivo did not become a war zone, I am disappointed that a stand against the current regime basically amounted to nothing (not that I was expecting it to anyway). Isn’t it funny sometimes how you get so desperately bored of the way that this illegal government behaves that you hope that anyone who dares oppose it have some level of success? Sometimes I am scared that the people of Madagascar are going to become so desperate that they will pick anyone to be president, so long as Rajoelina and his government disappear… I know I am starting to feel that way.

Anyway, despite there being no real “action”, so to speak, in Madagascar, there are still quite a few stories (listed below):

And these are only the ones that I want to touch on briefly, there are some more interesting information if you go to the “news links” tab of my blog. In case you are wondering about the title, I borrowed it from John Moore a radio host in Toronto that frequently uses this phrase to describe the federal government in Canada, thought it would be more applicable to the HAT and all their cabinet shuffling.

So about reshuffling the cabinet, I have become unbelievably bored of hearing how many times TGV are going to replace their ministers. At first I thought to myself that it must be me, surely I just “think” that they are changing government THAT frequently… it makes no sense. But then, thanks to Twitter and all the people following the crisis like myself, I get this link to “50 ministers in 15 months” (French article). Unreal isn’t it? Here I was thinking that it isn’t possible to shuffle a government cabinet this many times and there is an article about that very thought.

The government Monday of Pentecost is still and always composed of a plethora of 32 ministers, who, with 44 members of the transitional authority, are all paid for with scarce taxpayer resources. By comparison, under Ravalomanana, successive governments of Jacques Sylla (2002-2007) and Charles Rabemananjara (from 2006-2009) each had 21 members. Over the past 15 months, 51 people are exactly who participated in the waltz of ministers orchestrated by Andry TGV, ex-disc jockey

So if you read this right, Rajoelina has added 6 additional ministers to his government and by doing that and everything else he is doing wrong, he is burning through taxpayer money like no one else. The only real reasons that I can think of, but doesn’t necessarily justify how many minsters have come and gone is that he likes to treat his friends and supporters too much. It seems he likes to let everyone share power so they can have their piece of the Madagascar taxpayer pie. If you think about it, there can really be no other explanation since he “hand picks” new ministers for the job, despite knowing perfectly well that another unilateral Rajoelina branded “neutral” government means nothing to anyone outside of Madagascar.

Andry Rajoelina argues that the new cabinet is in line with his plan to establish a “neutral” government in the run-up to elections —legislative and presidential — before the end of the year.

“Once again, it is a unilateral initiative, as such, can not get international recognition, “he told Reuters Fetison Andrianirina, leader of the movement loyal to ousted President Marc Ravalomanana.

Back to the mutiny for a second, it appears (as it usually does) that Andry Rajoelina has his man when it comes to the mutiny of May 20th. According to most news Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is said to held in connection to May 20th and to have spilled the beans as to why the mutiny was called in the first place. The reason of course, is that Marc Ravalomanana caused this because <insert reason here>. Everytime there is every any trouble involving his government Andry Rajoelina is quick to point out in some way that the former president is responsible somehow thinking that this will deflect criticism of his government for possibly being the real reason as to why this had happened.

The police say Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is being held in custody in connection with Thursday’s battle between security forces and a dissident group of military police.

The mutineers were said to be angry at alleged abuses by their superiors.

The office of President Andry Rajoelina said Friday the former president was trying to create tensions within the armed forces.

President Andry Rajoelina has accused Ravalomanana of backing Thursday’s mutiny by a military police faction, saying he had thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars at military chiefs in an attempt to destabilise Madagascar.

It is really just all a PR stunt that will be used later on down the road as a reason why the HAT will not attend any upcoming negotiations with the former presidents.

Marc Ravalomanana of course denies any involvement with this, which is believable. Even if he did provide money to the military (seems like they can be paid off fairly easily anyway) does anyone think for a second that a mutiny paid for like Marc Ravalomanana would the the miserable failure that this mutiny was? Besides, how is it even possible to resolve the impasse by paying for a mutiny? If it were possible at all, it’s not like Marc Ravalomanana could resume his presidency without having to answer questions about how he returned, he would end up being no better than Rajoelina.

“I … deny any involvement in the clashes in Madagascar,” Ravalomanana told Reuters by telephone from Pretoria in South Africa where he is in exile.

“I have nothing to do with the military leaders that are behind this and it is not in my interest to finance violent action in the army,” he said.

Now comes the interesting part. It would appear from the last 3 listed stories that if you are banking (no pun intended) on the HAT’s illegitimate government to run out of money that you should think again. It seems as though the HAT government has no problems prostituting Madagascar’s resources to the highest bidder in order to stay in power. First up, a good article from Barry Bearack of the NY times about how the criminal element and the current government are taking advantage of the coup to reap profits from Madagascar’s protected rose wood:
Exploiting a political crisis, Malagasy timber barons are robbing this island nation of its sylvan heritage, illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of the valuable logs to China.

This accelerated plunder of the rainforest coincided with a military coup in March 2009. Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, was installed as president, and he has since led a weakened and tottering government that is unable — and perhaps unwilling — to stop the trafficking.

“The government does nothing because it shares in the money,” said Ndranto Razakamanarina, president of an association of Malagasy environmental groups and a policy officer with the World Wildlife Fund. “Many of the ministers think they’ll be in office only three or six months, so they decide to make money while they can. The timber mafia is corrupt, the ministers are corrupt.”

“The rosewood is piled up near the rivers; no one is trying to hide anything,” said Guy Suzon Ramangason, the director general of the organization that manages many of the parks. “Chinese businessmen pay the exporters and they in turn pay off the controllers like the police and the government.”

With all the AU/EU/US sanctions that have been coming into place to try and strangle the resources of the HAT, the only real recourse and money maker for the government is to turn to criminal activities to fill the void and since the HAT is criminal, this makes perfect sense. I thought that this would be their only source of income, but I was wrong. Not only does China seem to be responsible for the purchase of most of the illegal rosewood logs they are now getting rewarded with the opportunity to open a mine, which brings us to article #2 “China comes to the rescue with $100 million dollars for a mining project”:
Fresh money for state coffers. The Chinese consortium Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation (WISCO) has to pay the $ 100 million to the state of Madagascar. It is a payment as a right of making available to Soalala iron deposit, located north-west of the Big Island

Soalala is now become the largest mining project ever launched in Madagascar. It represents an estimated investment volume of 8 billion dollars and will generate up to 100,000 jobs.

The project’s outcome is a windfall Soalala important is timely for the regime transition. The organization of elections, among others, or the launch of some priority investments are all projects that become possible through this resource.

It appears that China is perfectly willing to prop up this illegal government so long as it benefits from it. Just look at the total investment volume and possible jobs! They have basically just put the HAT on life support and are directly contributing to the extension of this crisis! Unreal. Besides rescuing his government, it also gives Rajoelina a pretty good excuse to make it look like he is doing something for the people (i.e. exploit them). I am sure this will be a brilliant announcement for job opportunities, and revenue courtesy of the HAT and all the Malagasy people suffering will fill those 100,000 positions and will no doubt be working in sub-optimal conditions.
Finally,  debt forgiveness by Iraq and Russia. I have read somewhere that poor countries that borrow a lot of money, or use many of the programs offered by them stand to pay a lot of money in interest for the money they borrow. As it turns out, the HAT will be saving quite a bit of money in the form of loan forgiveness,  80% of a 234 million dollar loan (187.6 million) and 21 million dollars in interest payments from Russia. So now that this money is not obliged to be given to these countries, the HAT has had 208.6 million dollars freed up, that is, if they even had the intention of making payments.
The impoverished Indian Ocean island saw 187.6 million dollars waived from the 234-million-dollar loan after negotiations earlier this month, said the statement from Madagascar’s finance ministry.

The rest of the debt will be repaid interest free over the next seven years.

Madagascar reached a similar deal with Russia in January, resulting in the cancellation of 21 million dollars in interest accrued from a loan.

There was a funny comment made by Lova Rakotomalala on Twitter that pretty much sums up the Iraq loan forgiviness in under 140 characters:
lrakoto: U know U R not doing well when Iraq feels bad 4 U: RT@Manantsoa@haabanews: Iraq waives 80% of #Madagascar debthttp://bit.ly/bAXnR2

So true.
Looks like the HAT has been given an extension to continue tormenting Madagascar’s people, unfortunately.
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Chaos in Tana

It’s unreal, but there was a clash between the FIGN (Forces d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Emmo-Reg (Malagasy Army) today in the capital.

I haven’t had time and don’t have time to look into things in great detail, but what I have seen so far is this:

  • There a statement late on the 19th where the FIGN announced that there will be a meeting on May 20 at 8am at the Mausoleum. Called on all people to join them and that they would protect them with their strength.
  • There was also a religious gathering also that had gathered to protest against recent acts of violence against various journalists and radio stations so they decided to heed the call.
  • The Madagasikara movement had planed to join the pastors in protest.
  • 4×4 s appeared at the Mausoleum to disrupt the pastors hymns.
  • Eight military trucks and a jeep then arrived at the Mausoleum erecting barracades.
  • A shoot out begins between the FIGN that are holed up with pastors and anyone else that was at the Mausoleum.
  • Reporters were not allowed on site, so the numbers reported for injuries and death cannot be validated (7 civilians wounded 3 dead).
  • 5 people were arrested including a pastor.
  • The clash appears to be the result of there not being a roadmap to resolve the crisis as was promised.

I am not quite sure what the current status is on anything, but needless to say we are reaching a boiling point. If we have come to factions fighting amongst one another with their side clearly chosen, that cannot bode well for the near future. Now everyone in Madagascar is sick of Rajoelina, even some with guns… but army who is more or less endorsing Rajoelina’s lame, same old road map are the only ones sticking up for him.

I am afraid to think of what comes next after this, usually these things are just the beginning of a bigger problem, but who knows. Perhaps what is worse is that there is no prospect of a resolution (since Rajoelina refuses to negotiate further and is unilaterally making decisions again). This can only serve to fuel more discontent with FIGN and supporters, so I can hardly see this dying down. Here are some links related to todays events:

Hopefully, there will be no further violence or deaths… but with the way Rajoelina is, he really isn’t leaving these people much of a choice.

#Madagascar’s Infinite Loop

So picking up where we had left off, after the Pretoria meeting, I have decided this whole “coup/ultimatum” thing was a total farce.

After Pretoria, Rajoelina came skulking home stating he had showed some sort of patriotism and humility by going to the meeting that he, France and the army manufactured.

He declares that there will be no further talks with any of the former presidents of the county and that he will solve crisis in Madagascar by forming a “neutral” government, but unilaterally of course.

“We have decided… when politicians can’t get on with one another, directing government affairs and the main political institutions must be left to neutral personalities,” he told reporters in the capital Antananarivo.

Hours after laying out his road map to ending the more than 14-month crisis on the Indian Ocean island before the military top-brass, Rajoelina said: “I believe we are on the same wavelength as the armed forces.”

“We have to move forward, we must build the Fourth Republic. The transition must end this year,” Rajoelina said. A final decision on how to take the former French colony forward would be made within 48 hours, he said.

I wonder if the HAT are running out of ideas, or are just plain stupid:

  1. We know from his government’s history that unilateral governments never pan out. You can throw as many adjectives as you want at the government… it can be open, fair, transparent or neutral. It still doesn’t work.
  2. If you are looking to legitimize a government in the eyes of the international community, how can you do this unilaterally? A unilateral “neutral” government is an oxymoron.
  3. Who is going to decide the make up of a neutral government? Rajoelina of course! It’s not like the people will have any say in what the neutral government is composed of.

Needless to say, this is the new solution is more of the same from Andry Rajoelina which essentially puts Madagascar back on a 1 – 3 month holding pattern. Anyone who believed that this ultimatum was real at this point must have been wondering (or hoping) when the consequences of the most recent failure and this ridiculous proposal by Andry Rajoelina would be felt, expecting an imminent military take over.

But after some supposed “talks” between Andry Rajoelina and the army,  the tough army stance has now turned into passive support for the government:

“It is not our job to define whether this road map is clear … and if it will allow the country to exit the crisis. We are only observers,” Ndriarijoana told reporters late on Thursday.

The army refused to comment on whether its reversal was an endorsement of Rajoelina’s proposal but it appeared to rule out the threat of a military takeover.

Andre Ndriarijoana helped get Rajoelina where he is… so it shouldn’t surprise you that the army doesn’t want to “define whether the road map is clear”. If the army can’t or doesn’t want to define whether any of Rajoelina’s proposals are clear, then we  never could have had an ultimatum could we? There has to be a definition as to what is acceptable in order to have an ultimatum.

Perhaps now realizing that no one is buying into what he is selling, in more recent news Andry Rajoelina states that he will not run in the upcoming presidential elections. This was met quickly (perhaps too quickly) with statements from Dakar and France hailing him as a courageous hero that is willing to give up power for the best interests of the country.

“I declare in the name of the superior interest of the nation and of the people, my decision not to stand as candidate in the presidential elections for a fourth republic,” he said in a televised statement on Wednesday.

As much as I would like to be happy that Andry Rajoelina is not going to be calling the shots in any subsequent government, I don’t buy this for a second. This idea just smells wrong (don’t know if there is a better way to say it)  especially with France and Dakar trying to frame Rajoelina as a hero.

His statement in the following quote almost seems to be trying to return to an old UN proposal (I have probably written about but have forgotten) where he is not involved in the presidential elections neither can the former presidents.

“Past presidents have led the country to poverty. I do not think it is a good solution that former presidents present themselves for the presidential elections “, he said

In a speech Wednesday night on national television, the president announced a timetable for the transition and said they “made the decision not to run” for the poll, to find a solution to the political crisis. Regarding in particular the former head ofstate Marc Ravalomanana, ousted in March 2009 by Rajoelina with the support of the army, “the law does not permit him to stand for presidential elections” because “it was considered and condemned “, says former mayor of Antananarivo.

Rajoelina, who turns 36 on May 30, also said he did not rule to stand for president next five years. “Why not, if God wills it (…). I still the future before me “, he replied. Andre said Rajoelina wish the participation of international observers to verify the proper conduct of the presidential he wants to convene Nov. 26. He finally believes that with the announcement of its withdrawal from the forthcoming presidential election, “all obstacles have been spared” for his participation in the next Franco-African summit planned in Nice on 31 May and 1st June, and he “believes that ‘(it will) may be invited “.

I don’t know about you, but the only president (president of an imaginary status I mean) that I can think of that has led Madagascar to poverty is Andry Rajoelina, no one has devastated the country faster than he has. And if he is stepping down, why do we even need a 4th republic if not to lower the age limitation for a president?

The problem with the above quote of course is that he has clearly indicated that he has not finished being president, and has aspirations to continue being president. So he is not proposing stepping aside for the good of the country, as he would like you to believe, but only to try and convince the international community that he is serious to free up the donor money that is being held back as a result of his illegitimacy.

Here are some excerpts from an another article that pretty much sums up everything I had said previously. The funny part is that Monja Roindefo (Andry Rajoelina’s first PM) is the one calling him out for not keeping his word:

“What is the point if it is him organising it? We are fed up of manipulation,” said former Rajoelina ally Monja Roindefo. “He thinks Madagascans have a short memory. Who believes that this time he will keep his word?”

The secretary general of the Francophonie group of French-speaking nations, Abdou Diouf of Senegal, on Thursday welcomed Rajoelina’s “courageous decision” and urged other Madagascan leaders to end the crisis.

“I would like to salute the courageous decision of the president of the High Transitional Authority not to stand in the forthcoming presidential elections announced for November 2010,” Diouf said in a statement issued in Paris.

“This commitment proves his high sense of responsibility and his sincere determination to get his country out of the long and painful crisis it is enduring,” the former Senegalese president added.

He called on “all Malagasy political players to commit themselves resolutely and without second thoughts in a constructive dialogue that should lead to the holding, in 2010, within the announced timetable, of free, reliable and transparent elections.”

So now the people of Madagascar must wait 1 – 3 months while Andry Rajoelina waits for a fish to bite his “non-Rajoelina neutral” government lure. Inevitably, this will not happen and we all know the routine… in up to 3 months you will see Rajoelina, Ratsiraka, Zafy and Ravalomanana at some other African city having more negotiations, these negotiations will also fail, Rajoelina will act unilaterally when he doesn’t get what he wants. Repeat cycle. Infinite loop.

Never ending cycle of failure

As expected, at least by me, the political meetings spurred by the sudden military ultimatum are a complete failure and it appears  that they were failed before they had even started according to Andry Rajoelina’s senior advisor Rolly Mercia:

Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina expects that talks aimed at resolving a political crisis on the Indian Ocean Island probably will fail, said one of his senior advisers, Rolly Mercia.

“There is very little chance that this meeting will succeed,” Mercia said in a phone interview today from Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, which is hosting the negotiations. “As it stands now, there won’t be anything to sign.”

You probably know by now that I don’t buy into Andry Rajoelina’s notions of a unity government or anything that he has done up to this point for “the people”. What I do believe, and pardon me for repeating myself, is that there is only ever one goal for him and that is to be the legitimate president of Madagascar, recognized by all. So it is no surprise to me and probably to anyone that follows this travesty of a government that these talks have failed.

I did my own analysis on previous events that led up to the failed Pretoria meeting before I became wrapped up in the following events and back tracked a little bit. Now with the information from the most recent events, I think I am now squarely back to my previous thought that all of this was just a ruse, the goal of which was to rush into negotiations hoping that the other parties would sign, without thought, an agreement drafted up no doubt by himself and a representative of France.

From my perspective, all the signs are there:

  • Rumours circulate that there is a coup a foot to overthrow the HAT : April 10th, Originally the rumours were that General Noel Rakotonandrasana was going to try and overthrow the government, someone loyal and instrumental in putting Andry Rajoelina where he is today. It doesn’t add up, he of all people must be enjoying the spoils of this coup, so why would he want to be the face of the coup?
  • Military Ultimatum : April 12th, we are to believe that the army has “had enough” of the HAT government, whose #1 priority to keep the army paid? Why the change of heart all of the sudden? Neither the HAT or the army has cared for the Malagasy public since this coup happened. And the unidentified “army bosses” asked Rajoelina to come up with a plan in 48 hours, but with no repercussions if he does not. There isn’t even any idea of what is going to happen with their end of April deadline, it is just basically do this “or else”. I fully believe that the “or else” part of the ultimatum is entirely up to Andry Rajoelina and that this was only a tool used to spark new talks.
  • New Road Map : April 14th, 48 hours after the ultimatum a new road map appears, sponsored mostly by France and the ICG (Brussels based). Big suprise, the proposal suggest that the Addis Ababas and Maputo agreements (all AU involment) be dumped and instead the focus should be on writing a constitution, and early elections. These are all things that Andry Rajoelina has been trying to trick people into doing and what he himself has tried to do unilaterally. So appears the EU is taking sides with Andry Rajoelina and wants to get a deal signed between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, excluding the other presidents.
  • Coup Attemp was foiled : April 19th, Not to long after the rumours had started, there was this miraculous series of arrests relating to the coup rumours. They arrested some ex-military personnel, reservists and soldiers. There were never any links to Noel Rakotonandrasana and the people the arrested don’t even look like they would succeed in a bank robbery, let alone going against an entire coup government who has the majority of the nation’s army on it’s side. Seriously… if they had gotten to a building or even taken some HAT ministers hostage, does anyone think that the army would just accept them as the new leaders of Madagascar? Of course not, the HAT and the army are in it together… this would have never succeeded despite what Alain Ramaroson might say. This is just tying up a loose end to the “military dissatisfaction” that lead to the ultimatum and new talks.
  • Talks scheduled : April 20th, supposedly on pressure from the army, Rajoelina defines a “new path” with a meeting with himself and Ravalomanana on April 24th to “overcome” the settlements of Maputo and Addis Ababa. Clearly Andry Rajoelina wants to erase any consession he had ever signed at Maputo or Addis Ababa and wants to start over again to gain an advantage. He also wants to deal with only Marc Ravalomanana stating that the International community realized its mistake by adding Ratsiraka and Zafy in hopes that this will speed up the process of Ravalomanana signing his (and France/ICG’s) agreement.
  • Preparation for meeting : April 27th, Ravalomanana releases a framework for discussion, agreeing in principle to meet to resolve the crisis, but only if all 4 political parties should be present and no unilateral action is taken by any party.
  • Pre-Meeting Optimism : April 28th, Rajoelina is quoted as being optimistic regarding the new meetings.
  • Post-Meeting Pessimism :  April 29th, Rajoelina’s senior advisor Rolly Mercia states that there is little to no chance that this meeting would succeed. Based solely on the fact that 75% of participants wish to stick to the Maputo and Addis Ababa agreements, the 25% being Rajoelina. It is very apparent at this point that Rajoelina never did have any intention of negotiating, he was actually just hoping people would sign the “road map” as it was drafted.
  • Negotiation Failure : May 1st, In news articles everywhere the stumbling block to an agreement was the formation of a unity government (as usual), most likely because Rajoelina does not want to give up key ministries. They were also divided on election timelines with Rajoelina wanting to have legislative elections (to stack the deck) followed by presidential elections and Ravalomanana wanting the reverse.
  • Return to Madagascar and the “neutral government” : May 3rd, On his return to Madagascar Rajoelina announces that he will form a “neutral” government. Of course neutral is subjective, based solely on what Andry Rajoelina deems to be neutral. Interestingly there has been no comment from the military on their previous ultimatum as yet.

So to me, it appears that we have just been put through another one of Andry Rajoelina’s tricks. Now that it has failed, he has ran home sulking that:

“I showed patriotism and humility. But it was the last chance. There won’t be any more,” Rajoelina told reporters. “The time for negotiations is over.”

“We have decided -… when politicians can’t get on with one another, directing government affairs and the main political institutions must be left to neutral personalities,” he told reporters in the capital Antananarivo.

And will now create, yet again, another unilateral government that he will no doubt try to convince the world is legitimate and ultimately neutral based on his own definition of the term. He will also continue on his quest to push toward the 4th republic of Madagascar so that he can legally be elected as president at 35 if and when those “transparent” presidential elections happen.

“We have to move forward, we must build the Fourth Republic. The transition must end this year,” Rajoelina said. A final decision on how to take the former French colony forward would be made within 48 hours, he said.

And if there ever should be a situation where negotiating with the other former presidents would show some promise in getting what he wants, or if he is threatened sufficiently you can bank on the fact that he will be back there at the negotiating table for as long as it suits him.

Also, in more confusing news… the on April 30th the EU Rejects Madagascar Sanctions to which I was not too surprised.  I thought this shows how much support Rajoelina enjoys in the EU. However… in breaking news on May 4th, the EU Commission proposes Madagascar be suspended from the Contonou Agreement which would take away 600 million euros in assistance from 2008 to 2013. Not sure if they can’t make up their minds… or have changed them.