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The Year that was in Madagascar: Part II

Lova Rakotomalala, in his overview of Madagascar in the first months of 2009, the first of this three-part series, wrote about the events leading up to the coup d'etat that brought Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of Antananarivo, to power.  Here, we continue were Lova left off.

May 2009 saw more protests from Ravalomanana's supporters and more repression from the armed forces. Ravalomanana had resigned in March and fled to South Africa. Rajoelina was now in power.  The power struggle was at its highest, and took place both within Madagascar and on the international stage. In Addis Abeba, the international community was doing its best to extract Madagascar from its political mire.

“Representatives of the UN security council and the African Union are meeting for a “Madagascar contact group” in Addis Ababa to ensure that the nations take a common position in pushing for a return to constitutional order in Madagascar. Although each Malagasy political party announced that they had representatives present at the meeting, it turns out that none of the opposition parties were present during the decision-making process meeting.”

Meanwhile more arrests were happening, first the head of security at the high constitutional court was arrested, then Manandafy Rakotonirina, appointed Prime Minister by the exiled President Marc Ravalomanana, was arrested on charges of “illegally declaring himself as prime minister, vandalism & possessing weapons”, as reported by the Cyber Observer.

On a happier note, May 2009 was a great time for citizen media in Madagascar: Razily, the flag waving protester whose arrest was taped by bystanders and whose unknown fate had attracted international attention on the net, was freed.

Courtesy of radotiana.blaogy.com

Courtesy of radotiana.blaogy.com

Solana Larsen, Global Voices’ Managing Editor, interviewed Tahina's FOKO who put in place FOKO Ushahidi.

“With Foko Ushahidi, ordinary citizens can now upload reports of unrest around the country and have them added immediately to an online map. Tahina installed the system himself with technical help from abroad and is in charge of managing the hub through which the SMS messages pass. A team of bloggers, including Lalatiana and Stephane (known as Pakysse), check reports for accuracy after they have been posted.”

Sadly it seemed that the SMS alert system was now something that Madagascar needed in order to keep track of all the incidents and unrest rocking the country.

In July 2009, the second Malagasy BarCamp took place, with the presence of Lova Rakotomalala, GV author and FOKO member.
Madagascar Barcamp 2

Understandably due to the political situation and the heavy-handedness of the repression, the event was heavily focused on the lack of freedom of speech in Madagascar. Many journalists and bloggers had received threats, but nonetheless, participation was high. The highlight came when bloggers and twitterers gave their personal testimonies about the crisis. Lova summarizes:

“Andry explained that his thirst for raw information drove him to be where trouble was brewing. Jentilisa explained that it was very odd that on black Monday (Jan 26th) people would announce that a building was burning even before it actually happened, hence suggesting that some events were probably planned and not just random acts of protests. Avylavitra told a story of how he feared for his life on March 28th when a soldier hold him at gun point and demanded his camera. Jaona from Fianaratsoa explained how his blog was mentioned at a public meeting as a threat to social order in Fianarantsoa and should be shut down. Many other bloggers/twitterers shared similar stories of major hardships while covering the crisis. Thierry Andriamirado explained the increased relevance of online social networks in dispatching news about the crisis. Thierry was the first to exhaustively live-tweet the first tragic event of the crisis, “Black Monday,” and explained that he felt compelled to share the stories in real-time for a time-stamped digital record of the events.”

August 2009
Former Presidents Ravalomanana, Zafy, Ratsiraka and current HAT President Andry Rajoelina came with great difficulty to a power sharing agreement in Maputo, Mozambique. The agreement focused on Ravalomanana's return, as he is now exiled in South Africa, on the organization of elections in 15 months, and on how to split the transitional government ministries between the factions. Nj elaborates on the fate reserved to Ravalomanana in the agreements.

“Ravalomanana indique qu’il n’est plus Président de la République mais ancien Président, par rapport aux accords de Maputo et non pas par rapport à tour de passe-passe que la HAT avait essayé de nous faire gober. On ne pourra donc plus dire qu’il est “démissionnaire” ou “déchu”. Il est juste l’ancien Président de la feue IIIème République et désormais “Sénateur à vie”.

En outre, il a également demandé à ses partisans de stopper les manifestations au Magro, les légalistes étant relativement disciplinés on imagine que cela serait suivi sans problèmes.”

“Ravalomanana states that he is no more President of the Republic, but rather the former President, because of the agreements of Maputo, and not thanks to all the tricks the HAT had tried to play on us. We will not longer be able to say that he is the “deposed” president or the president who “resigend”. He is just the former President of the defunct Third Republic, and now a “Senator for life”. In addition, he has also asked his supporters to stop demonstrations at the Magro; the legalists being relatively well disciplined, one can imagine that his request will be respected without problems. “

Other bloggers, like Achille52, were frustrated because they think the agreements still left too much uncertainty.

“On esperait tellement de ces accords qu'on est degoute de leur soi-disant avancee a la con ! Les principaux problemes tels que le retour de Marc Ravalomanana pose toujours probleme, et la nomination des postes de la transition va etre une bataille, car d'autres personnalites dans le pays veulent leur part du gateau.

On annonce des elections dans 15 mois, mais qui en garantira la transparence ? On peut compter sur le gouvernement actuel pour nous mitonner un truc a la congolaise !”

“So much was expected from these agreements that one can't help but be disgusted by their so called progress! The main issues, like Marc Ravalomanana's return, are still problematic, and the designation of responsibilities during the transition will be a battle, because other people in the country want their share of the cake. They've announced elections in 15 months, but who will guarantee they will be free? We can be sure the current government is capable to rig elections with results similar to what they got in Congo! “

Citoyenne Malgache deplores the presence of the same old politicians during the many political crises in Madagascar.

“Les changements qu’ils prônent consistent à rester par tous les moyens dans le cercle des dirigeants, jusqu’à la mort, et
même au-delà. Par instinct de reproduction, ils transmettent leur savoir faire à leur progéniture qui ont les mêmes gueules,
les mêmes oreilles.”

“The change they promise consists of staying by all means in the leaders’ circle, until their death, and even beyond. By instinct of reproduction, they transmit their knowledge to their children, who have the same faces, same ears.”

September 2009
Andry Rajoelina who had planned to make a speech at the UN General Assembly was barred from the UN pulpit when members of the SADC community threatened to walk out and then demanded that the assembly vote whether he should be allowed to speak. In the end, he was not allowed to speak. Twitterers followed the drama and ensuing confusion in direct.

As commented by Alain Rajaonarivony :

“L’épisode de l’ONU est symptomatique. Tandis que les Malgaches de l’intérieur étaient soumis au black-out, y compris les officiels, la diaspora et ceux qui avaient la chance de se connecter (une infime minorité dans la Grande ile) pouvaient suivre en direct la navigation hasardeuse de la délégation de la HAT au sein de l’immeuble des Nations Unies et les «empêchements» d’Andry Rajoelina le 24 et 25 septembre. “.

“The UN episode is telling. While Malagasies in the country were subjected to an information blackout, including officials, the diaspora and those who had the chance to connect to the Internet (a tiny minority on the Great Island) could follow in direct the HAT delegation's hazardous exploration of the United Nations Headquarters and its “impeachments” of Andry Rajoelina on September 24 and 25. “

Still, repression continues despite or because of the UN fiasco. Lova writes:

“In the meantime, unrest has once again broken in the aftermath of the UN fiasco. Investgasy posted on twitter today:

#Madagascar: shootings in Anosy (Tana) right now, armed 4×4 are everywhere . The report was later confirmed by Reuters , reporting tear gas launching and warning shots fired at demonstrators.”

October 2009
Pakysse of FOKO was invited to the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, the G20 summit and live blogged the event.

Pakysse wondered at the lack of action from Malagasy officials resulting from the conference:

“Depuis la conference organisee par les Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques, l’etat malagasy est cense sensibiliser la population sur le danger que porte les feux de brousses, la secheresse dans le sud et les differents cyclones car cela a a un impact sur la couche d’ozone et la vie de tous les jours de la nature et de l’homme

Nombreux sont les hommes d’etat et les journalistes MALAGASY qui etaient dans le meme avion que ma personne pour assister a la conference proprement dite mais la question qui se pose est la suivante: ETAIT-IL NECESSAIRE DE GASPILLER AUTANT D’ARGENT POUR UN DEPLACEMENT SANS RESULTAT?”

“Since the conference organized by the UN on climate change, the Malagasy government was supposed to raise awareness on the danger brought by fire, drought in the south, and hurricanes as they all have an impact on the ozone layer and everyday life of nature and man.

There were many Malagasy statesmen and journalists in the same plane I took, they were traveling to participate in the conference, but the question I am asking is the following : WAS IT REALLY NECESSARY TO WASTE SO MUCH MONEY FOR A TRIP WITHOUT RESULTS?”

Monja Roindefo, Andry Rajoelina's prime minister and companion in arms was sacked, as part of the application of the Maputo II agreements which demand the nomination of a consensus Prime Minister. Wikipedia has an outline of the events, including Monja Roindefo's efforts to stay in power:

“Roindefo took the matter to the Council of State on 12 October 2009, requesting that it annul the decree appointing Mangalaza; he argued that the procedure was flawed and that the faction leaders needed to sign the agreement in order for it to become valid. The Council of State accordingly suspended the decree on 15 October, but lifted the suspension and refused to annul the appointment in its final ruling on 22 October 2009.”

Alain Rajaonarivony commented Monja Roindefo's eviction

“Andry Rajoelina, quant à lui, a justifié dans une émission télévisée dans la soirée du vendredi 9 son divorce d’avec son compagnon et complice. Ce serait l’intérêt supérieur de la nation, le désastre économique imminent, qui l’aurait poussé à prendre cette décision. C’est la condition sine qua non pour que le boycott international cesse. En fait, la vraie condition est un retour à l’état de droit. “

“Andry Rajoelina justified his divorce with his friend and accomplice in a televised show on Friday 9. The best interest of the country and the imminent economic disaster would have pushed him to take this decision.  That's the sine qua non for the international boycott to cease. But really, the true condition is a return to a state of law and order.”

On a lighter note, the Afrobasket Women 2009 was organized in Madagascar. Twitterers and bloggers followed avidly. R1lita hoped to see Madagascar regain some of its former glory on the African continent :
afrobasket-women-2009-mad-sa-score

“It will be interesting to see Madagascar play big nations of basketball such as Mali, the defending champ, Nigeria, Angola or Senegal which are more experienced and used to international competitions. Some of their players are playing out of their homeland in Europe or in the U.S. Let’s say the chances for Madagascar to reach within the top 3 spots are slight. So, any win will be important for the Malagasy team and it will strengthen the motivation and confidence of all the players and the whole nation behind them. The games will be daunting but also a must-take stage if we want to improve to the next level and reach again a rank that once we had (Gold Medal during the 1970 FIBA Championship in Togo).”

November 2009
November 8 saw the four protagonists : Rajoelina, Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka and Zafy, reaching yet again another power sharing agreement in Addis Abeba, which stipulated that there should now be two co-presidents, and the ministers would be shared amongs the four factions. Avylavitra posted the names of the newly designated high officials. The blogosphere reacted with a mix of cynicism and relief, wondering how and if the agreements would be respected and applied. Jentilisa worried that the bigger issue of the military involvement in political affairs was not being talked about.

“Averiko farany indray angamba fa ny tena tolona hafa, ankoatra ny famitana ity vanim-potoan'ny fihazohazoana ity, dia ireto miaramila mihevitra fa tsy hisy hahala azy amin'ny toerany ireto mihitsy fa ry zareo ihany no mifanendry fa ny mpitondra sivily dia manaiky fotsiny ihany. Anjaran'ny tsirairay ny mieritreritra satria efa masaka andohan'izy ireo fa tsy hanaiky hofehezin'ny fahefana sivily intsony ry zareo hatramin'ny nanafihany ny minisiteran'ny fiarovana tamin'ny volana martsa”.

“I repeat maybe for the last time that the real fight, apart from ending this transition, is these soldiers who believe that nobody will remove them from their positions, because they are now the ones in charge and the civilian leaders follow their directives. It is up to everyone to ponder on this because these soldiers will never again accept to be under the thumbs of a civilian government, ever since they attacked the Defense Minister in March. “

Echoing Lova's post on Francafrique’s role in the crises of former French colonies, Nj finds similarities between other former French colonies and the Malagasy case.

“Madagascar s’est tout simplement faite standardiser comme toutes “colonies africaines” de reny malala : un clan présidentiel issu d’un Coup d’Etat, avalisé par des élections truquées qui devient une véritable monarchie aux ordres de la France pour des décennies. Accords de Transition, élections législatives, élections présidentielles, force d’interposition….Il suffit de regarder l’actualité de nos voisins africains, “anciennes” colonies françaises pour prévoir l’avenir que la France réserve à Madagascar”.

“Madagascar has let herself been standardized like all these “African colonies” of the beloved Mother (Translator's note: France was called beloved mother during colonial times) : a presidential clan born from a coup d'etat, legalized by rigged elections, the clan then becomes a genuine monarchy and follows orders of France for decades. Transitional agreements, parliamentarian elections, presidential elections, intervention army… One has only to look at current affairs in our African neighbors, “former” French colonies to predict the future France has in store for Madagascar”.

Achille52 reported twice on Madagascar's rosewood being pillaged and even gaves names the alleged smugglers. He calculated how much rosewood illegal exploitation yields and his calculations were backed by Mongabay News:

“on arrive à un total farmineux de 120 000 000 de dollars et 41 600 000 de dollars qui sont gelés. […]on n’a aucune garantie que cet argent sera bien utilisé, et de ce que l’état en fera s’il met la main dessus.
120 000 000 de dollars !! […]Imaginez combien de chose on pourrait, en fait, cette somme est équivalente à 60 000 FMG pour chaque malgache de Madagascar. Et dire que 24 personnes se sont partagés une somme pareille !”

“One comes to a surprising amount of $120,000,000 and $41,600,000 which are frozen. […] one cannot guarantee that this money will be well utilized, and what the state will do with it if it ever gets its hands on it. $120,000,000 […] Imagine what one could do with this money for each Malagasy of Madagascar. And to think 24 persons shared that amount of money! “

To top it all, a freighter sunk off the coast of Madagascar in November 09:
Gulser-Ana-300x225

“spilling toxic waste in the process and killing migrating whales and causing illness among the fishermen community. Although the disaster has been reported in a few media recently, the ship started to sink two months ago as Malagasy bloggers signaled on their blogs back in early September.
Tomavana wrote on his blog (fr):

En plus d’écarter le drame écologique du Sud de l’île des actualités nationales, la controverse politique autour de ces nouvelles nominations pose la question du suivi de ce dossier sensible

The political drama not only steers the focus away from this tragic event but it makes one wonder who will be accountable for following up and taking charge of the issue.”

Continue reading with Mialy's review of the last weeks of 2009 in Madagascar in the third part of this three-part series. See also Lova Rakotomalala's overview of January to April and the events the culminated in Andry Rajoelina's coup d'etat.

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