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Madagascar: Is military rule next?

News of a mutiny at one of Antananarivo's most important barracks stunned Madagascar yesterday. The mutiny has since spread to other barracks and Madagascar's Defence Minister, Vice-Admiral Mamy Ranaivoniarivo, has resigned.

Ranaivoniarivo was appointed to the post only a few weeks ago, after Cecile Manorohanta resigned following the bloodshed of February 7th, when opposition protesters led by Andry TGV Rajoelina attempted to march on a Presidential palace, and were fired upon by the Presidential Guard.

There were reports that Vice-Admiral Mamy Ranaivoniarivo resigned under duress, as some mutinous soldiers held him prisoner, then made him write a letter which he read during a press conference.  The BBC reports:

“He read out a brief letter of resignation to reporters, but later suggested he may have been under pressure to leave his post.
“Perhaps I resigned under threat. I do not like it that Malagasy people are killing each other,” he said.”

Jentilisa comments on the resignation :

“Nandritra ny tontolo maraina izy no nohidiana birao, sady nohidiana rahateo vavahady fidirana ao amin'ny minisitera tsy nahafahany mivoaka. Efa karazana “gadra” izy izany raha tsy “takalon'aina”. Mampalahelo ny mahita fa ny ambany grady indray no mibaiko ny manamboninahitra jeneraly, ary nisy aza ny nandrahona azy, ka teo anatrehan'ny mpanao gazety no nanatanterahana izany fandrahonana izany indray (ankoatra izay tany amin'ny birao any). Maty hasina ny sata repoblikana, mitamberina an-tsaina ihany koa ny fanaon'ny mpampihorohoro any amin'ireny sarimihetsika ireny.”

“During the whole morning, he was sequestered in his own office, they also locked the gate to the ministry so nobody could exit. He was held “prisoner” or even “hostage”. It is sad to see lesser-ranked soldiers ordering around a general, and some of them even threatened him, in front of the journalists (this was in addition to the threats done in his office). Republican values are being stomped to the ground, reminding us of terrorizing acts in movies.”

After this resignation, the Army Chief issued an ultimatum:

“We implore all political players, civil society organisations and other parties to reunite immediately to find a solution within the next 72 hours to help the nation out of the current crisis,” said Gen Rasolomahandry.”

And today the mutiny leader, Colonel Ndrianarijaona, has seized control of the army.

“Col. Andre Ndrianarijaona told reporters Wednesday the army's chief of staff had agreed to hand over his post to him.

Ndrianarijaona said Gen. Edmond Rasolomahandry had agreed to the change after less than an hour of discussion at the army chief‘s offices. Rasolomahandry left without comment.

There was no immediate comment from President Marc Ravalomanana, who appointed Rasolomahandry last month.

Ndrianarijaona leads a group of soldiers who announced over the weekend they would no longer take orders from the president. Ndrianarijaona said Wednesday the army was united behind him.”

Soldiers were seen blocking streets, and twitterers reported rumors of Pro-TGV supporters going to invade ministries. The saddest part was the sight of Malagasy civilians fighting each other in the streets, fifteen were reportedly injured. Pakysse posts pictures.

More than ever, Malagasy bloggers are worried about the turn of events.

Tahina worries that civil war is looming, if it isn't here already:

“It’s no more safe to talk politics in a public area (buses included) because you don’t know who’s listening to you and on which side this one is. A simple rumour about you can harm you or your relatives. While I’m writing this post lootings are keeping up, SFOI Tanjombato is now among the victims.
Some friends and I talked to a foreigner who’s been in Madagascar for about 8 years now and raised the term “Civil War”. He said that Malagasy people are too peaceful and it’s hard to think of such a thing here. I do hope he’s right.”

Rado reports with pictures on yesterday's events.

Ambatobe burning

On Malagasy Miray, a post fumes at what Malagasies are doing to their country:

“Voalaza mantsy fa hendry ramalagasy, voalaza fa mandala ny fihavanana sy ny firaisan-kina.   Kanefa inona ny nitranga? Ny andaniny mitady an’i Andry Rajoelina any amin’ny masoivoho frantsay, ny ankilany hanenjika ny PDS Guy Rivo eny Ampasapito sy ny manodidina rehefa tsy nahazo ny zanany teny Ambatobe tao amin’ny sekoly frantsay. Ny miaramila mihoko sy mitokona tsy handray baiko intsony fa hanao “V” amin’ny ratsan-tànana.   Ny mpandroba maneho eo anoloan’ny fianakaviambe iraisam-pirenena fa mahantra sy noana ka solosaina sy fahitalavitra no angalarina. Maratra, voa mafy misy koa ny maty. Haringana ve ny firenena? Hahetry ve ny toe-tsaina malagasy sy ireo soa toavina nolalain’ny razana?Inona re ity nataonao raMalagasy ô?! Mahamenatra sy marary toy ny tongo-bakivaky.”

“Malagasies pride themselves on their wisdom, their sense of brotherhood and unity. What is happening now ? Some are hunting for Andry Rajoelina at the French Embassy, others are hunting for the Mayor Guy Rivo at Ampasapito, after failing to kidnap his children at the French school yesterday. The army is rebelling and is not taking any orders anymore, signaling the “V” with their fingers. Looters are showing the international community that when one is poor and hungry, one steals computers and television sets. Many are injured, many are dead. Are we ruining the country? What about Malagasy values and mentality that were cherished by our ancestors? What have you done Malagasies? It is as shameful and painful as cracked soles.”

Jentilisa tried to take some distance from the current crisis and asks if things are not larger than a Ravalomanana vs Rajoelina fight. What are we relinquishing here? Why are the soldiers mutining? He looks at history and sees parallels with the Merina army's disengagement during the Malagasy-French war of 1885, at the end of which the Malagasy were defeated, and Madagascar became a protectorate, then a colony.

“Toa tsy niraharaha ny ady loatra ny mpitari-tafika Malagasy, indrindra fa tamin’ireo Jeneraly efa nananan’ny Malagasy ihany koa. Teo Andriba ihany no mba nisy karazana ady mafana teo amin’ny Malagasy, fa ny ankoatra izany dia tena tsy nisy na inona na inona nataon’ireo tafika mihitsy. Inona no antony? Ela nitondrana loatra manko ny praiminisitra Rainilaiarivony ka efa bebe ihany ireo tsy tia azy. Ny andaniny efa mpankasitraka ny Frantsay koa faly kokoa mahita an’i Rainilaiarivony fa jamba teo amin’ny fijerena ny hoe ho lasan’ny Frantsay anie i Madagasikara fa sombintsombiny ihany no omeny anao izay faly tsy mahita fa ny fiandrianam-pirenena Malagasy no rava fa tsy hoe Rainilaiarivony ihany no miongana”.

“The army leaders did not take the war seriously, especially the generals. The only battle that really deserve the name took place in Andriba, everywhere else, the army just did not fight. What is the reason? The Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony had been in power for far too long and quite a few did not like him. The other side who supported the French were happy to see Rainilaiarivony in difficult position, and were blind to the realization that Madagascar was going to fall into French hands, and they would only get crumbs of the victory. They were happy and did not realize that Malagasy independence was lost, with Rainilaiarivony's defeat. “

Tomavana also finds lessons in history and the role that the army should play :

“As the days pass, the list of deaths related to clashes in Madagascar continues to lengthen. In Geneva also the army formerly fired at demonstrators. The difference is that the people of Geneva has learned their lessons from history: the army is not trained to maintain public order, the army is shaped to defend a territory in the war.”

Meanwhile the opposition leader Andry TGV was reported to be under UN protection by the UN envoy, but then the UN Headquarters denied the information and said that Andry TGV was under French protection, then French Embassy officials said that Andry TGV was now in the hands of the Catholic church, but other reports say he is in an unspecified location for his own security. But now apparently he is back safe and sound in his house in Ambatobe, protected by mutineers, and is refusing to participate in the national talks that the United Nations and Western powers insisted to keep him safe and sound for !

The presidentially-appointed new mayor of Antananarivo has lost his home in burnings and lootings by a mob of TGV supporters. And Ravalomanana was said to be blocked by the army from accessing the presidential plane, allegedly to flee the country. The French Embassy saw Ravalomanana supporters protesting French meddling into Malagasy affairs.

Solofo wonders if the UN and France's protection of Andry means they are now supporting coups:

“Ainsi Andry s'est fait exfiltré à la Résidence de l'Ambassadeur de France et ceci sous la ‘protection’ de l'ONU; du jamais vu dans la gestion des différents crises politiques dans le monde d'autant plus que l'ONU et les autres organisations internationales comme l'OUA ont toujours prôné pour le respect des Institutions comme principe de base.

Est-ce un signal officiel de soutien à l'insurrection et au Coup d'état en cours à Madagascar par l'ONU?…Cette ‘protection’ ne constitue pas un support officiel au Coup d'état mais un moyen de pousser tout le monde à s'entendre pour esquisser ensemble une ‘cohabitation’ à tous les étages (au gouvernement, au Sénat et dans des instances de contrôle ad-hoc qui seront créés pour prendre en compte les révendications de l'Opposition), et ceci tout en respectant la Constitution et les échéances éléctorales.”

“Andry has managed to flee to the French Ambassador's residence, and this with the UN's protection ; something unheard of in the management of political crisis in the world, as the UN and other international organizations like the Africa Union have always recommended respect of institutions as principles. Is this an official signal of support by the UN to coups and insurrections in Madagascar?…This protection may not be an official support to the coup but a way of pressuring everybody to come together and start sketching a plan for “coexisting” at all levels (government, senate, all institutions created for control to take the opposition's demands in consideration), and all this respecting the consitution and electoral deadlines.”

Solofo also regrets that Ravalomanana, who has publicly apologized for the mistakes he made during his seven years as president, has taken so long to recognize his wrongs:

” Cette solution a été et reste la seule voie raisonnable et bénéfique pour le pays d'autant plus qu'apparemment Ravalomanana a finalement décidé de faire son auto-critique en public aujourd'hui. Bien entendu, il faut le voir en action dans les jours et mois à venir mais je trouve dommage qu'il ait mis tant de temps avant de muer. “

“This solution [dialog] has been and is the only reasonable and beneficial way for the country to get out of the crisis, since Ravalomanana has finally decided to do his mea culpa publicly today. Of course, one has to see if he really means it in the coming days, but I find it sad that it has taken him so long to change.”

Jentilisa reacts strongly at the news that the French Embassy was harbored by the French Embassy :

“Raha niainga ny mpiaro ny ara-dalàna teny Mahamasina dia ny hitaky ny hanalana an'i Andry TGV any amin'ny Ambasady Frantsay no antony, sy ny tsy hitsabahan'i Frantsa amin'ny raharahan-tokantranon'i Madagasikara. Mampihomehy indrindra manko raha olona “nialokaloka” teo alohaloha teo no afaka mandehandeha soa aman-tsara eto Madagasikara, afaka mikabary amin'ny famoriana olona eto Madagasikara, nefa mody any amin'ny masoivoho Frantsay rehefa avy eo. Tsy nitsipaka ny vaovao rahateo moa ny fitondrana Frantsay fa dia nilaza ny hanalana azy fotsiny avy eo. Dia io fa feno miaramila mpioko io manodidina ny tranony eny Ambatobe amin'izao fotoana izao.”

“When legalists left the meeting in Mahamasina, it was to demand Andry TGV's removal from the French Embassy and for France to stop meddling in Malagasy affairs. It is ridiculous if a “protected” person can now move freely here in Madagascar, make speeches, then go home safely to the French Embassy. The French government did not refute the news, but simply said that TGV was not in French compounds anymore. Now there are mutined soldiers all around his house in Ambatobe.”

Eight 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 where coups and assassinations happen…

5 comments

  • Meloky Denis

    All these occurrences are due to the “crazyness” of our leader and his team. Yes, Malagasy are more than proud to our traditional wisdom only if there is no hypocrisies. If you followed the trend of causes since 2002, the dialogue between Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana be it at homeland or at the African Organization level. Ravalomanana and his team were so pushy, and there we all knew that Ratsiraka finally left and saying not to shade the blood of his own countrymen. Let me jump, Then Ravalomanana promised a small car “4L” to each household in 2002 but in 2007 he became the only one richest man in the country where more than 80% of the population are below the poverty line (and it is so shameful to see on most international news papers saying that Madagascar among the poorest countries in the world). Though Gasy has their pride of wisdom, while living in a very desperate situation, it is really more than natural to ask the value of democracy and freedom of expression. Now I can see that the problems have reached deep to every arrays of life. Therefore, people reacts. Don’t you know Madagascar is naturally lucky to be alone with no frontiers to neighboring countries, but the crazyness of the few taking all for themselves drag deep down its development level. You agree or not we (Malagasy) still have elites that want to save the country out of this shameful and awkward behavior and lead to far more better country. I do believe escalating war as you said in the title will not be happening in our country. Only do impact the national reconciliation, release all political prisoners, form the transitory government for the next Republic then we will bid for new development and further improvement in every spectra and aspects of livelihood of All Malagasy.

  • Nirina

    From Topmada Dago hour today 03/11/09:
    22:15 – [URGENT] – Annulation de l’ultimatum de l’armée : “On n’est pas venu ici pour prendre le pouvoir, faire un coup d’Etat ou instaurer un directoire militaire, donc en ce qui nous concerne, il n’y a pas d’ultimatum”, a déclaré le nouveau chef d’état-major, le colonel André Andrianarijaona

    I just saw this in topmada e!
    Ka no mula ange raha vao miaramila no mitondra e, tapaka daholo ny vola avy aty ivelany.

  • I only saw this after the post was published : the video of the mutineers forcing the general to read aloud his resignation letter in front of the journalists is available on you tube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fjuP2AGNUA&eurl=http://pimaso.info/?p=1101&lang=fr

  • Fabien Ranaivo

    to Meloky :

    Uh, if you have not noticed, civilians are fighting in the streets, the army is divided… still not convinced that civil war is already here?

    “Ravalomanana and his team were so pushy, and there we all knew that Ratsiraka finally left and saying not to shade the blood of his own countrymen.”
    Ravalomanana is indeed a greedy and ruthless man.

    But to say that Ratsiraka left because he simply did not want to shed the blood of his own countrymen is rewriting history and disingenuous.

    We still remember the Kung Fu adepts who fought barehanded against tanks and heavy armed soldiers, how many of them are still missing today.

    We remember the march to Iavoloha, the footage of the massacre is available on youtube too.

    We remember the terror of 2002 perpetrated by Ratsiraka and his acolytes, the blown up bridges and the violence.

    We remember airplanes that had “accidents” with opponents in them, political opponents that ended up in jail after staged trials.

    And please do tell me what accomplishments did Ratsiraka manage during his dictatorship?

    So please, there really is not much to admire and reminisce there.

  • […] a solution by yesterday – without which he said the military would take control. With reports of mutiny by some units, the military police no longer taking orders from the government, mutineers moving tanks into the […]

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