Madagascar: Rumors terrorize Antananarivo

Truth and freedom of speech and opinion seem to be victims of the political crisis that is now crippling Madagascar.

Threats are being made and rumors being spread, all contributing to a climate of terror that prohibits peace and normal life.

Jentilisa, a blogger who has not given his support to Andry Rajoelina's protest movement, reports receiving threats:

“Alina fahatelo aho izao no misy fanelingelenana (harcelement nocturne)(amin'ny 12 alina, 2 ora, 4 ora ary @ 5 sy sasany maraina) amin'ny alalan'ny antso finday hatrany ary tsy menatra ny mampiseho ny laharan'ny findainy izy nefa rehefa antsoina tsy mamaly.”

“This is the third night that I have received nocturnal harassment, at midnight, at 2, 4, 5.30 in the morning, by phone and the callers have unabashedly unveiled their phone numbers, though they do not respond when called back.”

Les Nouvelles report attacks on the home of Lala Rasendrahasina ,the leader of the FJKM
(Fiangonan'i Jeso Kristy eto Madagascar - Association of Protestant Churches in Madagascar). The FJKM is now serving as mediator in the negotiation talks between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, in the power struggle that has paralyzed the island since January. The FJKM was seen by some as being too close to Ravalomanana.

“Finalement, ils ont essayé de repérer les assaillants en scrutant prudemment l’extérieur, mais impossible pour eux d’identifier qui que ce soit. Au hasard, l’un des agents a visé sur une ombre, et son tir s’est avéré suffisant pour faire fuir les agresseurs.”

“Finally, they [security agents at Lala Rasendrahasina's home] tried to locate the attackers by cautiously peering outside, but it was impossible to identify anyone. One of the security agents shot randomly at a shadow and the shot was enough to make the attackers flee.”

News2Dago does not find these attacks surprising:

“Manarak'izany dia mitohy hatrany fampihorohorona ny olona mpanelanelana ankehitriny satria dia nisy nitoraka sy nihaodihaody ny manodidina ny tranon'ny filohan'ny Fjkm Lala Rasendrahasina. Tsy mahagaga izany satria dia dradraina ao @ radio viva isan'andro oe mpiray tsikombakomba @ mpitondra jadona.”

“Everyday the threats against mediators continue, they have now thrown stones and wandered around the home of Lala Rasendrahasina, leader of the Protestant Churches of Madagascar. This is not surprising as every day on Radio VIVA, they accuse him of complicity with the dictatorship.”

The Order of Malagasy Journalists calls its colleagues

“for more restraint and to stop the hatred, incitement, rumors and misinformation in their news items and editorial line.”

Some journalists have been heard inciting mobs to hatred on various radio stations, especially the TGV VIVA radio station. Journalists have shamelessly designated some individuals as “Enemies of the People”, while giving information on their homes and license plate numbers on the radio. These “Enemies of the People” are then targeted by mobs and their homes are burned down or looted.

“Mba meteza kely fotsiny eo @ toeran'ireo voaromba ireo mpanao gazety manondro molotra ireo mba manana vady aman-janaka ihany. Ovay ihany koa ny fomba fanao fa mbola tsy tara. Tao aorinan'ny 17 janoary no nankaty izao dia maro ireo olona voaroba. I Moxe Ramandimbilahatra, nanaraka azy omaly i Eugène Randriamiandrisoa teo koa i Saholimalala izay mpanolotsainam-paritra ny antoko Tim dia farany izay natao antsoantso omaly t@ radio viva dia i Jaquot ny tarika Green. Lazaina fa fahavalom-bahoaka daholo ireo olona ireo dia robaina ny fananany.”

“Those journalists who are denouncing others should put themselves at the place of the looted, as they have also spouses and children. Change your ways, it is not too late. Since January 17, many have been looted. Moxe Ramandimbilahatra, then Eugene Randriamiandrisoa, then Saholimalala, who is a permanent counselor to the TIM party [Ravalomanana's party], the last one being accused on Radio Viva is Jaquot of the musical band Green. They say those people or enemies of the people and then they come and rob them.”

On Wednesday, Ravalomanana organized a rally attended (according to AFP) by 30,000 supporters (according to DW the number was 50,000).

Rally in support of Ravalomanana in Mahamasina

The rally was deemed successful, as people came in droves despite pouring rain, as reported by tgoose.

“Finally! the incumbent speaks up and his people show Madagascar and the world that they are not interested in a new government being forced upon them. I was really starting to wonder what Ravalomana could do. I hope this is the beginning of a realisation for the Malagasy people… Wouldn’t that be great?
There was about 30,000 people inside of the arena and about 10,000 outside of the arena, all standing in the rain supporting their country and democracy. Most inside where shouting “Arrest TGV!” repeatedly (which is not a bad idea) and carrying around banners that say “Tsy Mila TGV” (We dont need TGV)!”

Singers were invited to perform, among them Samoela, whose song “President” seems now prescient in describing this power struggle:

“si je serai président par hasard
nous on saura jamais,
seul dieu le sait
mais s'il mettra un conard au pouvoir
j'aimerai bien m'y voir”

“if I become president by chance
we never know
only god knows
but if he makes a jerk president
i'd really like to see myself in that position”

Other artists declined at the last minute, citing threats from the Andry Rajoelina TGV camp, while it was reported that journalists tried their hands at intimidating artists to stop them from participating in the incumbent president's rally.

“Rolly Mercia du quotidien La Vérité aurait déclaré sur la radio Viva que les artistes qui se produiront à Mahamasina pour la contre manifestation pacifique, pourraient avoir des répercussions sur leur carrière professionnelle. L’animatrice de Viva aurait aussitôt donné une liste de noms d’artistes censés se produire à Mahamasina.”

“Rolly Mercia of the daily newspapers La Verite said on VIVA radio station that artists who will perform in Mahamasina for the peaceful counter rally may see some impact on their professional lives. The VIVA journalist then immediately listed the names of artists that were supposed to perform.”

A comment, by Razz, severely criticizes those who attended the Ravalomanana Rally:

“Faut-il rappeler que cette fête que le parti Tim compte tenir à Mahamasina se passe au moment où les citoyens malgaches sont encore en douleur suite à la tuerie volontaire d’une centaine de personne trois jours plutôt à Ambohitsorohitra. Par ailleurs, le show artificiel de Mahamasina coïncide à la commémoration de la date d’assassinat du colonel Ratsimandrava le 11
février 1975. De qui se moque-t-on ? « Seuls les ‘danseurs de nuit’ (mpamosavy) qui jubilent et s’éclatent sur la douleur et le décès de leur voisin », s’indigne une mère de famille habitant dans un bas quartier de la capitale pour faire allusion au show de Ravalomanana à Mahamasina”

“Should one be reminded that this party the TIM is holding in Mahamasina is taking place at the time when Malagasy citizens still mourn the voluntary murders of a hundred people three days ago in Ambohitsirohitra [the place where the presidential march saw the military firing on the crowd]. The artificial show of Mahamasina also coincides with the anniversary of the Colonel Ratsimandrava's assassination, on February 11, 1975. Are they taking us for fools? Only those who dance at night (witches) rejoice and party on the pain and the death of their neighbor”, fumes a mother living in one of the poor neighborhoods of Antananarivo, alluding to the Ravalomanana show in Mahamasina”.

Worse, some in the South of Madagascar warn that some are ready to launch ethnic fighting.

“Nanaitra ihany anefa ny fitarainan'ny loholona voafidy sy voatendry avy any fa misy ny mikononkonona ady an-trano (fomba filaza ampahibemaso ny hevitra ambadiky ny ikonokononana fandrobana fa ankehitriny kosa tadiavina hanaovana fandripahana ny Merina – sy ny Betsileo – monina any amin'iny faritra iny). Efa nisy anefa ny olona milaza (na mieritreritra) fa tena ao anatin'ny teti-panorona mihitsy io fandripahana olona toy izay nitranga tany Rwanda namonoan'ny Hutu ny Tutsi tamin'ny 1994 io.”

“We were shocked to hear about complaints from elected and designated eleders that some are preparing civil war (a public way of saying the ideas behind lootings, and now of the murders prepared against Merina and Betsileo [ethnic groups who originate from the Highlands of Madagascar] who live in that region). Some have been saying (or thinking) that ethnic war is in the plans, as it happened in Rwanda when Hutus massacred Tutsis in 1994.”

In these uncertain times, no real objective news is available, and the propaganda machines are spreading mad (or not so mad?) rumors that contribute to a climate of terror and uncertainty on the island.

Rumors that Ravalomanana has fled the country, rumors spread back in January:

“Unconfirmed reports claim that Andry TGV told the crowd that President Ravalomanana left the country.”

Rumors on protesters of both camps being bribed:

“Les manifs sont devenues une source intéressante de revenus en ces temps de crise économique d’autant que les deux partis n’hésitent pas à payer.

“Rallies have become an interesting source of income during these times of economic crisis, as both sides do not hesitate to bribe.”

“Pour la ville d’Antanifotsy, trois cars sont partis ce matin en destination du stade Mahamasina. Les personnes à bord ont déjà empoché 75.000 Fmg par tête, selon les témoins oculaires sur place. Dans la capitale, des chefs dans l’administration ont mis une pression à leurs subordonnés pour se rendre à Mahamasina. “

“In Antanifotsy, three buses left this morning in destination of the Mahamasina stadium. People on board had gotten 75.000Fmg per head, according to eyewitnesses. In the capital, leaders in the regime have pressured their subordinates to attend the Mahamasina Rally.”

This website posts a picture of a certain blue car from which TGV supporters would have received money on Saturday February 07, 2009, before the bloodshed.

Other alarming rumors keep swirling:

Rumors about looters and proTGV protesters getting ready to destroy whatever is left of Ravalomanana's stores in Antsirabe:

“Araka ny fanampim-baovao azoko dia ny karana sy izay olona rehetra niara-niasa tamin'ny TIKO rehetra no nokasaina horobaina tany Toliary sy hovonoina mihitsy. Re ihany koa fa miomankomana ihany koa ny jiolahim-boto na mety ho mpanohana ny TGV na mpandroba tsotra handroba sy handoro izay sisa tsy potika sy tsy may tamin'ny fananan-dRavalomanana Ao Antsirabe ao amin'izao ora hanaovana fanampim-baovao izao (10:30 eo amin'ny piste fanaovana hazakazan-tsoavaly ry zalahy amin'izao fotoana izao ho an'izay mahalala an'Antsirabe). Efa nampitandrina anefa ny mpitandro ny filaminana fa hitifitra avy hatrany ry zareo na tsy “zone rouge” ary ny toerana kasain-dry zareo horobaina sy odorana.”

“According to news I heard, the Karana and others who collaborated with TIKO [Ravalomanana's dairy firm] are targeted for looting and even looting in Toliary [a city in Southern Madagascar]. It is heard that hooligans or GV supporters are preparing to loot and burn down whatever is left of Ravalomanana's empire in Antsirabe (10:30 they are no on the horse race tracks now as I speak). The soldiers have warned that they will immediately shoot even if the targeted stores are not in the “red zone””

Rumors that the French envoy has called Andry TGV “president”, and rumors that the French Embassy has denied his having done so :

“L’Ambassade de France aurait démenti les propos d’Andry TGV tenus sur la place du 13 Mai hier. Celui-ci avait déclaré que durant les entretiens d’hier, Mr Joyandet l’aurait salué en utilisant le terme de “Mr le Président” “

“The French Embassy may have denied talks by Andry TGV held on the place du 13 Mai yesterday. He had declared that during yesterday's talks, Mr Joyandet [the French envoy] had saluted him with “Mr le President””

Rumors on Andry TGV being the target of mercenaries (spread by Andry TGV himself):

“Andry Rajoelina a été victime d’une attaque des mercenaires sur la route digue dans la nuit du dimanche 9 février dernier selon les révélations qu’il a faites sur la Place 13 mai. (…)
Rumeur ou réalité ; les preuves font pour l’instant défaut dans tous les dires de Andry Rajoelina. Il se dit à maintes reprises être l’objet d’un mandat d’arrêt. Jusqu’à présent aucune photocopie d’un quelconque mandat d’arrêt n’a été révélée. Il a déjà affirmé être poursuivie par des personnes inconnues, sans apporter de preuve concrète.”

“Andry Rajoelina has been the victim of mercenaries’ attacks on the road to the airport during the night of February 9, as he revealed on the Place du 13 Mai. (…)
Rumor or fact; proof is non-existent now in all Andry Rajoelina has been saying. He has repeatedly claimed to be the object of an arrest order. Until today no copy of any arrest order has been seen. He has also many times asserted having been pursued by unknown individuals, but he has never brought any proof.”

Rumors about some hotels harboring mercenaries (spread by Andry TGV himself) and refuted by the hotels:

“Andry Rajoelina a aussi pointé du doigt l’hôtel restaurant Papango en fa ce de la Place 13 mai, d’héberger un tireur d’élite qui serait en charge de le tuer”
“Accusé par des manifestants de la Place 13 mai d’avoir abrité des tireurs d’élite samedi 7 février dernier, l’Hôtel du Louvres sis à Antaninarenina et accolé au ministère des Finances, dément. L’autre établissement hôtelier, Le Colbert, sis lui aussi dans les parages, précise que l’établissement appartient exclusivement à des particuliers et Marc Ravalomanana n’a
aucune part dans son capital comme on veut le faire croire. Le Colbert aussi a été soupçonné d’avoir abrité des tireurs, auteurs du massacre ce samedi ensanglanté du 7 février dernier.”

“Andry Rajoelina has pointed out that the hotel restaurant Papango harbored an elite sniper ordered to kill him.” “Accused by protesters of the Place du 13 Mai of harboring snipers on February 07, the Hotel du Louvre of Antaninarenina, and joined to the Ministry of Finances, refutes. The other hotel, The Colbert, also nearby, specifies that the Hotel belongs exclusively to private citizens, and Marc Ravalomanana does not have a share in its capital, as some would have one believe. The Colbert was also suspected of having sheltered shipers, who would be responsible of the massacre of saturday, february 7th.”

Dizzying rumors that prompt a comment on Jentilisa's blog:

“aiza kay no tena misy lahatsoratr'olontsotra fa tsy mpanao gazety fa toy ity anao ity ihany, fa izany hoe tena olona tsy miandany @atsy na ny aroa fa tena mba milaza ny zavamisy objectivement?”

“where can one find texts by simple citizens, but not journalists, like you, but from some that are truly independent, and are saying things as they are, objectively?”

In all this mess, R1lita is desperate for peace and the right to a normal regular life.

“I think people here just want to live in peace. They want to go to work or to school without the fear of being trapped in riots, or taken by force to join those who are on strike. Shop owners want to open their businesses and be sure that no one will loot and burn them. We are fed up with this feeling of permanent insecurity.The last protest [Andry Rajoelina's protest] didn’t draw as many followers as before still people are wary because nothing is sure yet. Even though we are back to our daily life we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”


  • Miquel

    It is great that you are blogging all those opinions. I feel that there is a lot of misleading information in Europe about what has happened generated by France. I wish that democratic entities of your country will solve this problem and they can judge all the authors of violence and trouble. I would hope that one international committee should judge the ones who financed it and all the international media that biased news in purpose. They should ask why they did all that. People and more the called “democratic countries and rich countries” should not play with the lives of citizens of the planet. Fortunately in Madagascar through Internet, local media and blogging more inquisitive people can get different news.

    The worldwide big lies in the world have been Iraq war and Rwanda conflicts. I feel that very often there is poetic justice and those who harm would be discovered hopefully sooner or later.

  • Ben

    Misaotra betsika Mialy! As an american who spent significant time in Madagascar but who is tsy mahay teny gasy, your summaries (and translations) of the local bloggers is invaluable.

    Keep up the great work and many thanks!


  • Opponent view

    Hi Mialy
    You might be right when you criticise Andry Rajoelina ,it’s up to you ,it’s your choice ;
    But have you ever thought that IF we as Malagasy people keep on submitting our Ravalomanana as president what will be our futur life ,”DID RAVALOMANANA KEEP HIS PROMISE TO MAKE RICH POOR PEOPLE”,
    HOW ABOUT THE MAP TO ENTER “MALGACHISATION” don’t you think it is ridiculous because all Malagasy children will be less and less intelligent and the aim is to deteriorate their futur life in order to be farmer and SO ON?

  • Again, thanks everybody for your appreciation and criticism.
    Just to enlighten everybody here, the point of GVO is to report what is seen in forums and blogs. That is why everything hereis mostly citations from bloggers and forumists. None are my own opinion.
    I tried hard to cover both sides. Andry TGV due to his background seems to have been better at communicating, and you can see this in all the rumors his team has managed to spread, vs the ostrich approach espoused by the very remote and quasi absent Ravalomanana side.

    I am not a professional journalist myself but “just a blogger” and I have tried hard to cover both sides points of view, although in this conflict, there were but only two proTGV bloggers I found, and one of them has been seen backpedaling most recently, most TGV supporters seem to have confined themselves to comments in forums.

    Peace to all of you !

  • Dago News Reader

    Have you seen the article on “Jeune Afrique” (february 19, 2009) ? [cf. 19/02/2009 10:22:52 – APANEWS –
    Quatre Français expulsés pour menace à l’ordre et la sécurité.]
    It is worth reading. Right or wrong analysis (?), it is also worth thinking about.
    Also, it would be interesting to know the reactions to the latest event: FFKM intervention and results.

  • Ali

    Help me understand. Andry Rajoelina not six years too young to hold the post of president by Malagasy law? If so, it would take a change in law before he could even hold the post. He has not been elected. There has been no referendum. Rajoelina has set up an interim government which, as far as I am aware, is not carrying out any work other than to occupy certain government buildings and arrange rallies. The country is suffering. If there is a true desire to do what the people want, why not hold a referendum to find out if they want an early election? Violence breeds violence. Any radio station that names people addresses and incites listeners to acts of violence does not deserve to be allowed to remain on air. If Rajoelina is truly putting the needs of the people first, he must allow the people to vote on wether or not they want him as President by electing him, or get out of politics altogether and allow peace to return to Madagascar. As usual in these situations, it is the innocent who suffer most.

  • […] During negotiations there was a slip up where a French diplomat had called Andry Rajoelina “Mr. President”. […]

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