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French Ambassador expelled from Madagascar because he was bad luck?

Gildas Le Lidec, the French ambassador to Madagascar, astounded his audience at the July 14th celebration last week by announcing that he was leaving his post after only six months:

Je regrette profondément que le président de la République de Madagascar ne m'ait pas accordé la moindre chance pour pouvoir remplir l'exaltante mission dont je rêvais depuis longtemps.

I profoundly regret that the president of the Republic of Madagascar has not given me the smallest chance to fulfill the exciting mission I have been dreaming of for a long time.

The reasons for the ambassador's departure are not clear. Some have speculated Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana many not have appreciated Le Lidec's habit of being in countries during times of crisis.  Le Lidec was in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in October 2000, when Laurent-Désiré Kabila was murdered, and in Cote d'Ivoire from 2002 to 2005, during the armed rebellion against Laurent Gbagbo.

Probably thinking that Le Lidec's presence during these turbulent times was more than a coincidence, some journalists close to the Malagasy government have wondered about French intentions in the Great Red Island:

Il vient pour tuer le President.

He is here to assassinate the President.

The French press has been quick to ridicule Marc Ravalomanana's aversion to Gildas Le Lidec, reporting on the Malagasy President's supposed superstitions:

La raison de la défiance dont est victime le diplomate tient, selon les responsables français, à la personnalité du président Ravalomana, “un homme jeune à la fois moderne et superstitieux, voire arriéré.

According to French leaders, Ravalomanana's personality is the reason [Le Lidec] has fallen victim to this distrust; Ravalomanana, a “young man, both modern and superstitious, even backward”.

Sylvain Ranjalahy, a Malagasy journalist, sees in the public nature of this incident a sign of rupture in Franco-Malagasy relations.  Although this type of information is usually not disclosed to the general public, the French ambassador publicly accused the Malagasy President of being responsible for his persona non grata condition.

Some in African blogospheres, including Ivoirian blogger Théophile Kouamouo, seemed to agree with Ravalomanana's distrust of the French ambassador:

Le Lidec semble étonnamment présent quand les présidents se font tuer, ou vivent des tentatives d'assassinat, surtout dans les pays où la France est potentiellement fortement impliquée.

Le Lidec seems to be magically present wherever presidents get killed, or experience assassination attempts, especially in countries where France is potentially strongly involved.

Others see in the “expulsion” of the French diplomat as a sign that African presidents have lost their meekness and timidity towards their former colonizers. The following comment by Rakoto, a reader from Madagascar, in response to Kouamouo's post is particularly telling:

… ça discréditait un président que n'apprécient guère certains milieux.
Un journal français l'a même traité “d'arriéré”. Que diraient ces “vazaha” si notre Presse utilisait des qualificatifs équivalents à l'égard de leurs hommes d'Etat ? Une mentalité raciste et méprisante n'a pas été éradiquée chez les anciens colonisateurs et certains compatriotes psychologiquement “aliénés ” leur emboîtent hélas triomphalement le pas.On a donc mis sur le dos du président Ravalomanana, à qui on ne pardonne pas non plus l'utilisation de la langue maternelle dans l'enseignement primaire, ce qui est une querelle franco-française ; Ce faisant, on se défausse de ses turpitudes sur quelqu'un qui, pour le moment, n'a pas rejoint la “France-Afrique”. Ce qui est clair c'est que, dans le départ de l'ambassadeur, ni la superstition, ni le côté arriéré de notre président ne sont en cause.

“…it's discredited a president and that won't be appreciated in some quarters. A French newspaper even called him “backward”. What would these “vazaha” (translator's note : Vazaha means white foreigner, but is mostly used to designate French people) say if we used similar adjectives towards their statesmen? The former colonials and some of their mentally ill countrymen, who joyously follow in their footsteps, still hold onto old racist ways of thinking. They have blamed President Ravalomanana, whom they have also not fogiven for the use of the mother tongue in primary education (Translator's note : The Malagasy government has decided to use Malagasy instead of French), for what is really a Franco-French quarrel.  This way they deflect their weaknesses on someone who, for the moment, has not joined the “France-Afrique” clan. What is clear is that the departure of the ambassador has been caused by neither the superstitions nor the backwardness of our President.

This skepticism of the Malagasy President's responsibility in the matter is echoed by this Malagasy comment on the Serasera Forum:

Raha tena i filoha hajaina marina no nitondra ity baolina ity, nahoana kay no ingahy Ambasadaoro no nampilAza azy voalohany t@ mpanao gazety, ARY t@ andron'ny fety nasionaly firantsay? Mahagaga!!!
Raha tena i filoha hajaina marina no tena mazana t@ ity aferafera ity, nahoana ingahy zokinibe Ramarisely toa nihanahAna sahala @ zanak'Akoho natelindrRamenarana t@ io fotoana io? Io ihany dia efa manambara amiko fa TSY nampoizin'ingahy zokibe Ramarisely ity fanambarAna nataon'i ambasadaoro ity.

“If really the president was the one holding the cards, why was the ambassador the first to announce this to the press, AND on the French National Day ? Amazing!!!
If really the president was the one to blame why was the Minister of Foreign Affairs so taken aback? This tells me that the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not expect this announcement from this ambassador.

A French netizen, responding to an article in Le Monde, “French Ambassador expelled from Madagascar for giving the evil eye,” wonders if all this could have been avoided:

“Pour autant, si la raison est vraiment un problème de superstition, c'est une faute de notre diplomatie de ne pas l'avoir prise en compte lors de la nomination de notre représentant. Tout ceci n'enlève rien à son talent, bien entendu. Tout simplement une erreur de “casting”

“Anyway, if it was really a matter of superstition, it is the fault of our diplomacy not to have taken it into account during the nomination of our ambassador. This does not lessen his abilities, of course. Simply a casting mishap.”

While another Le Monde reader wonders if this was a repercussion of Ravalomanana's allegedly bitter personal experiences with the French administration:

Peut-être faut-il aussi rappeler le sentiment anti-français du président malgache. Peu de gens savent que ce sentiment est né alors que le Président actuel n'était qu'un petit industriel et qu'il s'est vu maltraité par le consulat lors d'une demande de visa. Faut-il aussi rappeler les sarcasmes entendus dans la bouche de nos diplomates toujours si arrogants lorsque ce petit industriel devenu plus grand a accédé à la mairie de Tananarive. Et nos diplomates continuent de railler…

Maybe one should remember the anti-French feelings of the Malagasy President. Few people know that these feelings originated from when the current resident was just a small-time industrialist, and saw himself mishandled by the consulate when asking for a visa. One should remember the sarcasms uttered by our diplomats who were still arrogant when this small-time industrialist grew in stature and became the Mayor of Antananarivo. And our diplomats keep on mocking…

And another sarcastically comments on the “backwardness” of African societies:

L'horoscope de l'ambassadeur était en contradiction avec celui du président malgache ? Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! L'Afrique est bien sur la voie du modernisme ! Aucun doute …

The ambassador's horoscope contradicted the Malagasy president's? My God! My God! Africa is really on the way to modernity! No doubt…

3 comments

  • […] months ago, Ravalomanana had rejected Gildas Le Lidec's appointment as French ambassador. He thought he was “bad luck”, due to his propensity to be present in African countries […]

  • […] mesi fa, Ravalomanana aveva rifiutato la nomina di Gildas Le Lidec come ambasciatore francese [in]. Credeva che “portasse sfortuna”, dato che spesso costui era presente in quei […]

  • 1er Gaou

    Bien fait! Il n’y a pas de fait de superstition. Ces gens la se melent tjrs de politique interieur des pays qu’ils ont colonises dans le passe. Les examples sont nombreux: Cote d’Ivoire, Congo etc…

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