Marc Ravalomanana, Madagascar’s former President, has been in exile in Johannesburg, South Africa, since leaving the country in February 2009. He attempted Saturday, January 21, 2012 to return to the country, after failing to board a plane back home in February 19, 2011, when Andry Rajoelina, who toppled him after a coup, issued several NOTAMs prohibiting him from landing in the capital city's airport, Ivato.
Twitterers followed events live, using the special twitter hashtag #M21112. Here is a timeline of the event as told by twitter users.
Twitterers noticed the arrival of several pro-Ravalomanana politicians as well as important characters in the former Ravalomanana government on January 21.
(Given the numerous Twitter updates, the twitter quotes were directly translated from their original language to facilitate the reading of the article)
@topmada: “#Madagascar #M21112 Fetison Rakoto Andrianirina, Charles Rabemananjara, Tojo Ravalomanana are also there
@topmada : Come-back of Ravalomanana : Manandafy, Mamy Rakotoarivelo, Guy Rivo Andrianarisoa, Naika Eliane in the Ivato VIP lounge #madagascar #M21112
@topmada : Come-back of Ravalomanana : Pierrot Botozaza, Ruffine Tsiranana, Ihanta Randriamandranto also at Ivato #Madagascar #M21112
Twitters updates were rife with rumors about the possibility of his arrest, and even of his arrest warrant having been lifted.
@falyfamalagasy : General Forum:: Official Website Forum of the Ravalomanana Party :: OFFICIAL : The arrest warrant has not been lifted bit.ly/A7MCMY
@hairyt : Madagascar's ex-leader flies home under arrest threat bit.ly/xmFGWY #gasikara #m21112
@myrakoto Mamy Yve RAKOTOMANGA: #Ravalomanana – Tvplus announces the lift of the arrest warrant!!!
Supporters of the former president came early in the morning at the International Airport of Antananarivo, reporting problems :
@Tefy_eyes Tyfe Dawg: Buses of the delegation from Toamasina were stopped by the authorities of Sarimasina on the RN2 road and are threatened to impoundment @francediplo
@jentilisa Zo Andriamifidisoa: “@gasyjodasy: Roadblock of the emmonat at the entry of #Ivato # Madagascar #M21112”
All roads leading to Ivato and its surroundings were filled with cars and crowds. It was difficult, if not impossible, to circulate, 2 km from the airports.
@mammysou Mamisoa: The crowd continues to pour in, on foot, by car, or by pubic transport…#Madagascar #M21112
A few minutes after the plane entered Malagasy airspace, it was ordered to turn back because the airport where it was to land at was closed, even airports in the provinces. Followed several moments of uncertainty where twitterers thought Ravalomanana had headed to Mozambique, or if he would even be arrested in South Africa.
@topmada TopMada.com: #madagascar #M21112 Andry Rajoelina issued several NOTAM to close airfields in Antananarivo, Toamasina and Toliary
@ranjachrys: Plane carrying Madagascar's Ravalomanana diverts to Mozambique: bit.ly/AzdeI9 (Reuters) #M21112
@hdleague Human D League: @tomavana @nirent That would be ironic if he got arrested in South Africa instead of #Madagascar. #M21112
Sébastien Hervieu, a journalist who was aboard the plane with Ravalomanana reports on Ravalomanana’s strategy to involve again the international community in the seemingly never ending Malagasy conflict.
@SebHervieu: #Ravalomanana counts on the #UA summit next week to complain to the Heads of State #M21112
It is clear that what was happening made the former president’s supporters angry.
Ravalomanana’s political party made an announcement that it is suspending its participation to the Government of National Unity, headed by Rajoelina:
@saveoursmile Hery Zo: #ra8 movement suspended its CT, CST, governing council participation #M21112 according to Mamy Rakotoarivelo (Radio interview)
In anticipation of trouble on January 21, some shopping centers rushed their goods and closed, to avoid looting such as on Black Monday (January 26, 2009) and to avoid damages, as what happened to the stores in Ivato.
@ariniaina Lalah Ariniaina: 1:00 pm, Suprême Center took out their goods to prevent any risk of looting #M21112
The media seemingly did not fulfill their duty to report fairly about the event that took place:
@thierry_ratsiz Thierry Ratsizehena: Misinformation of some media in the capital leaves me speechless #M21112
The huge crowd which wanted to welcome Ravalomanana was not easily contained and some were wounded.
@topmada TopMada.com: #Madagascar #M21112 Ivato : security forces trying to contain the huge crowd with tear gas sprays and rubber bullets
@johnuniackdavis John Uniack Davis: Still crowds at airport, rocks being thrown, attempts to loot. But heavy rain now so let's hope cool (+ wet) heads prevail. #m21112
@avylavitra Arefidar Sweet: Currently, four admitted to Ambohibao Lutheran hospital: 2 women and 1 man injured, a man passed out because of the teargass #Madagascar #M21112
The US Embassy in Madagascar was active on twitter as well, announcing its intentions to follow the developments closely and seeming to warn both sides of abuses. On January 23:
@USMadagascar USEmbassy-Madagascar: The U.S. calls on all parties to avoid actions that might lead to violence. The United States will follow these developments closely.
@USMadagascar USEmbassy-Madagascar : We continue to call on all factions to work together to ensure genuine progress toward holding free, fair, & transparent elections…