Sunday, March 15, 2009

Madagascar News Bulletin: Government Defies Claims That Opposition Has Seized Power

Malagasy leader defies ultimatum

President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar has defied an ultimatum to resign in the face of a mass opposition rally in the capital, Antananarivo.

After the deadline passed, he emerged from the presidential palace, which is defended by hundreds of his supporters, to say he had no plans to resign.

Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has threatened to lead a march on the palace if he does not leave.

At least 100 people have been killed since protests broke out in January.

The opposition, which is trying to set up its own government, has occupied the prime minister's offices.

An aide to Mr Rajoelina, who did not wish to be named, said after the deadline passed that the opposition was still waiting for the president to quit.

"If we don't receive the call [from the president to say he has resigned], something will happen," the aide told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher reports that the opposition do not seem to have the appetite for a violent confrontation with the president and his supporters and prefer, instead, to keep turning up the pressure.

Nor, our correspondent adds, has there been any indication that the opposition will settle for a coalition with Mr Ravalomanana.

Sticks and stones

Presidential supporters are manning barricades around the park where the presidential palace stands, some 12km (eight miles) from Antananarivo.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CRISIS TIMELINE

December 2006: Marc Ravalomanana returned as president for second term
31 January 2009: Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina says he is in charge of the country after weeks of bloody protests
3 February: Mr Rajoelina is sacked as mayor of Antananarivo
5 March: Mr Rajoelina goes into hiding
13 March: President Ravolamanana urges supporters to turn out and defend his authority
14 March: Mr Rajoelina re-emerges and gives president just hours to resign
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Several big orange skips full of sand have been set up about 300m (yds) from the palace and hundreds of people have been walking around, holding large sticks, our correspondent reports.

Some people have got stones and the atmosphere is tense.

Everyone is waiting to see if the opposition do come to try and take the palace but this show of force seems to have called the opposition's bluff and there has been no sign of them moving in on the palace, our correspondent says.

"I'm still the president of Madagascar and I will remain the president," Mr Ravalomanana told the BBC.

"We must have a national conference and respect democracy."

Mr Ravalomanana, democratically elected to a second term in office in 2006, also issued a statement condemning the opposition which, he said, did not have "the power bestowed by democratic elections".

"This [opposition] movement is and remains a street protest which uses terror and repression to survive," he said.

"A self-proclamation does not equate to legitimate power."

'No tanks'

Mr Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital who was sacked by the government last month, rallied some 5,000 supporters clad in orange T-shirts and hats in central Antananarivo on Saturday.

"There is only one demand, that's the departure of Ravalomanana," he said.

But he ruled out using force against the president.

"I have clean hands," said the opposition leader, who accuses the president of being a tyrant who misspends public money.

"I have no intention of killing him [Mr Ravalomanana]. I have no intention of sending in tanks and soldiers."

Mr Rajoelina has been trying to establish an alternative cabinet with himself as president.

On Wednesday, the leader of a widening mutiny within the army ousted the chief of staff and a day later the military police said they would no longer take orders from the government.

The crisis has hurt the country's economy. Its tourist industry, worth nearly $400m (£290m) a year, has now had two months with no revenue.

Under President Ravalomanana, Madagascar's economy opened to foreign investment but 70% of the nation's 20 million population still live on incomes of less than $2 (£1.40) a day.

Your e-mails:

Fort Dauphin in the south-east of the island has remained calm and peaceful throughout the recent political turmoil. Remote and isolated, it lacks the infrastructure which has been destroyed in other regional centres. There are no furniture stores or supermarkets to loot here. The area is developing rapidly linked to recent mining investment, but there's still no decent road access to other regions. Rural communities in the region benefit from the efforts and donations of foreign volunteers working with NGOs and academic institutions. My advice to anyone thinking of coming to Madagascar is to seek information specific to the region they intend to visit...
Shirley Smith, currently in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

For sure this is a very sad event for my country, but the worst thing for the Malagasy People is to recognize that we have no Army but traitors in front of us. Rasolofonirina Marcel, Antananarivo, Madagascar

As an employee in a subsidiary of a British exploration company, I feel really concerned about the behaviours of those dissidents troops. They do not really help in easing the mind of our investors as they provide support to the opposition leaders in unlawfully taking over the Ministries from the elected Government. We are obviously witnessing the unfolding of a coup. This should be made clear to all. A resolution should be voted at the level of the African Union to give mandate to the SADC Brigade to come and protect the legal President so as to ensure peaceful settlement to take place.
Rija, Antananarivo, Madagascar

Actually the majority of the Malagasy people support the President Ravalomanana. Although the former Mayor was at the beginning supported by a number of of very young people, most of them they gave up when they realised that he was going to put the country in a political crisis... We are all tired with his situation. We wonder why he didn't wait till the elections to get the power. Why he never told us about his political project for the future? The only thing he keeps on saying is that Ravalomnanana is a thief, so he should be the president of Madagascar. Very democratic! He doesn't even have a legal political party. Who does he represent? Malagasy are poor but not stupid. Helene, Antananarivo

I have been living in Madagascar since 2003. I am a Canadian consultant working on international donor financed projects. I live 100m from the Antananarivo town hall... The mayor's campaign has no foundation in law and the intellectual class find nothing of substance in his platform. The president may have made some mistakes in the past in listening to the opposition and he has apologized for this. But he has been lawfully elected without a doubt a couple of years ago. The mayor's campaign is simply a badly disguised attempt at a coup d'├ętat. Unfortunately the economy has just been destroyed altogether and it will take 2-3 years to recover. Only the poor people of Madagascar will really suffer from this. Again. Roger Dhristen, Antananarivo, Madagascar

Send your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to +44 7725 100 100 . If you have a large file you can upload here.

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/7943921.stm
Published: 2009/03/14 19:51:18 GMT


Opposition says it's seized power in Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR Mar 14 2009 14:08

The Madagascar opposition said on Saturday it had toppled the government of President Marc Ravalomanana and promised fresh elections following months of unrest that have left over 100 dead.

Rajoelina then called on Ravalomanana to "humbly leave power in the next four hours".

"The president of the Republic, the National Assembly and the Senate, and the government are removed from their duties," said opposition leader Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja, reading from a declaration signed by opposition chief Andry Rajoelina.

"We commit to organising presidential, parliamentary and district elections, in not more than 24 months," said Monja, the opposition's nominee for the post of prime minister.

The power grab by the opposition, which has accused Ravalomanana of running a dictatorship, came after the president acknowledged making mistakes in a crisis that has claimed scores of lives since the start of the year.

Monja, who spoke to journalists from the prime minister's office after the opposition took control of the building, was accompanied by other opposition ministerial nominees and around 30 soldiers.

"We state that the president of the republic is no longer in a position to exercise the role allocated to him by the Constitution and that it is clear the armed forces refuse to obey the president," he added.

After being in hiding for over a week, Rajoelina on Saturday made his first public appearance at a gathering of several thousand supporters in the capital, an AFP journalist witnessed.

On Thursday followers of both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina took to the streets to press their campaigns following weeks of mounting tension which began in January after Rajoelina called anti-government protests.

The military on the vast Indian Ocean island remained on standby, vowing it would seek to maintain order without any political agenda.

Last month, the presidential guard opened fire on opposition protesters marching on one of Ravalomanana's offices, killing 28 and wounding some 200. The carnage drew international condemnation and caused deep dismay among the country's security establishment.

Rajoelina, who set up a parallel administration last month as part of his strategy to destabilise the government, had been under UN protection since evading arrest last week.

He had demanded Ravalomanana's resignation and the formation of a full transitional government, but the president vowed to continue in power until the end of his term in 2011.

On Tuesday, the army chief of staff issued an ultimatum giving the feuding politicians three days to resolve their differences or face a military takeover.

But in a surprise move, military leaders replaced General Edmond Rasolofomahandry with a colonel, Andre Andriarijaona, who took a tough stance against Ravalomanana. -- Sapa-AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-03-14-opposition-says-its-seized-power-in-madagascar


Madagascar president denies rival power grab

ANTANANARIVO (AFP) - - Madagascar's opposition claimed to have toppled the government on Saturday but President Marc Ravalomanana insisted he was in charge despite months of unrest that have left more than 100 dead.

The army said it would not intervene in the tussle but chief of staff Colonel Andre Andriarijaona said his forces could end up supporting the opposition "if it would restore calm" to the Indian Ocean island.

The opposition's leader Andry Rajoelina, addressing thousands of supporters in his first public appearance since March 3, called on Ravalomanana to "humbly leave power in the next four hours" as his side promised fresh elections.

"The president of the republic, the National Assembly and the Senate, and the government are removed from their duties," said Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja, another of the opposition's leaders.

"We commit to organising presidential, parliamentary and district elections, in not more than 24 months," said Monja, the opposition's nominee for the post of prime minister.

As the deadline expired, the embattled president remained rooted in his official residence and defied calls to quit.

Ravalomanana said he was still in power, stressing that the opposition "lacks the power given by the people in democratic elections.

"This movement is ... a manifestation from the street which uses terror and repression to survive," he said. "Self-proclamation gives no legal power."

About 1,000 supporters of the embattled president set up barricades around a park surrounding the presidential palace, some 12 kilometres (eight miles) from the capital Antananarivo, armed with batons but clearly nervous.

"We are here to protect the president. Nobody makes concessions to mercenaries anywhere in the world. Why are we negotiating with Rajoelina, who is a mercenary?" a supporter told AFP.

The power grab by the opposition, which has accused Ravalomanana of running a dictatorship, came after the president acknowledged making mistakes during the crisis.

Monja, who spoke to reporters from the prime minister's office after the opposition took control of the building, was accompanied by other opposition ministerial nominees and around 30 soldiers.

"The president of the republic is no longer in a position to exercise the role allocated to him by the constitution," he said. "It is clear the armed forces refuse to obey the president."

The president of the assembly Jacques Sylla told the crowd: "There is only one solution: the resignation of President Ravalomanana."

In Brussels the European Commission said it was seriously concerned by the developments, while the UN envoy to Madagascar, Tiebile Drame, urged the two sides "to find a compromise," to "preserve peace and stability."

Rajoelina, an ex-DJ and former mayor of the capital who set up a parallel administration last month as part of his strategy to destabilise the government, had been under UN protection since evading arrest last week.

On Thursday followers of both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina took to the streets to press their campaigns following weeks of mounting tension which began in January after Rajoelina called anti-government protests.

Last month, the presidential guard opened fire on opposition protesters marching on one of Ravalomanana's offices, killing 28 and wounding some 200. The carnage drew international condemnation and caused deep dismay among the security establishment on the vast Indian Ocean island.

Rajoelina had demanded Ravalomanana's resignation and the formation of a full transitional government but the president vowed to continue in power until the end of his term in 2011.

1 comment:

Jean Louis said...

Calls for a national conference were already made, more than a full year ago...

Unfortunately, at the time, the President and his government did not see fit to listen to dissenting voices.

We may be witnessing a case of too little, too late...

Despite a number of positive/progressive policies, and an economy that showed definite signs of improvement, President Ravalomanana's "management by fear" style, and ever growing appetite for personal economic gain, have led him to make what appears to be fatal mistakes.

The DAEWOO project, as a clear example, could have been handled openly rather than as a secret that was denied for weeks, even after the story finally broke in the Financial Times.

In fact, Madagascar could potentially benefit from some form of agricultural deal with an advanced nation, or better yet, several, to stimulate competition... (economics 101)

Unfortunately, the project was mishandled from the start, leaving it open the speculation that the regime is giving away land, taking huge bribes in the process...etc.

Similarly, one must not forget that it was the regime's relentless and implacable persecution of Mr. Rajoelina that brought the latter into politics in the first place, in a strangely familiar sequence of events...

Today, one is worried that unfolding events are uncontrolled and emotion/amateurism is more than present in what will prove to be another turning point in Madagascar's history.

Donors and partners, aware of the problems and weaknesses since the first term, hesitated and finally chose to privilege diplomacy over playing a role of true mentor to the regime.

We do not know what will happen, only that both sides are bracing for some type of showdown.

Again, diplomatic sources see the end of the conflict "soon". WRONG!

Unfortunately, thousands of citizens are taking sides, and millions are hungry... A dangerous mix if you ask me...

I do not have answers, and certainly do not pretend to hold the truth. But is this continues, I will have to lay off some of my "non essential" staff... As usual, the more vulnerable will suffer for the folly and Man!