Madagascar: Rajoelina faces isolation as another crisis looms

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New Madagascar president, Mr. Andry Rajoelina, who forcefully took over power from Madagascar’s democratically elected government under Mr. Marc Ravalomanana is already facing isolation, pressure and non-acceptance as condemnation and criticisms spring from all political quarters in Africa and beyond.

Southern African countries represented by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have refused to recognise Rajoelina as Madagascar’s new leader at a mini-summit in Swaziland while urging the African Union as well as the international community not to acknowledge Mr. Rajoelina.

Botswana Foreign Ministry has condemned Rajoelina’s coup in “the strongest terms” saying “his appointment does not only violate the democratic process and constitution in Madagascar, but it also violates core principles of SADC, the African Union and the United Nations.” The government of Zambia has also called for the immediate suspension of Madagascar from the AU and SADC. The AU is due to meet, Friday the 20th of March to discuss the situation in Madagascar.

The American government views Mr. Rajoelina’s claim to Madagascar presidency as an undemocratic transfer of power. Addressing the press in Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood noted that the US is “currently evaluating what impact this transfer is going to have on all elements of our relationship with the government of Madagascar.”

Karel Schwarzenberg, Foreign Minister of Czech Republic, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, has confirmed that “this was a coup d’etat,” and that the EU “shall have to adopt a prudent approach and see how things develop”.

Another crisis looms

Madagascar faces a dire humanitarian crisis. The country was hit by two harsh tropical cyclones last year that affected over 60,000 people and left more than 4,000 homeless, shortly before the unrest. Around 70 percent of Malagasies live on less than a dollar a day and the unrest which has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s tourism sector is estimated to affect some 25,000 jobs. Some residents say that the economic effects of the unrest are already being felt in the capital, Antananarivo.

Krystyna Bednarska, head of the UN World Food Programme is quoted as saying that “loss of employment due to the political crisis threatens to push the vulnerable poor and lower-middle classes into destitution. For those who are already indigent, estimated at over 500,000 … the current crisis has put even the most basic foodstuffs beyond their reach”.

A threat from the United States and European Union to cut off aid to Madagascar, which is highly dependent on aid for a big part of its budget — being one of the world’s poorest countries — could spell unmeasurable problems for the inexperienced 34 year old Rajoelina, a former disc jockey.

Mr. Rajoelina, who is six years too young to be elected president, according to the country’s constitution, has promised a new constitution and elections within two years. He has since set up two transitional bodies to run the country, while his inauguration ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, despite SADC’s calls for constitutional rule to be restored in the country as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns as to the whereabouts of democratically-elected, but ousted president of Madagascar, Mr. Marc Ravalomanana, who has not been seen or heard from since Tuesday.

Mr. Marc Ravalomanana had lost support of the Police and the army, who questionably offered their full backing to the opposition lead by the 34 year old former Disc Jockey and mayor of Antananarivo, Mr. Rajoelina had accused Mr. Ravalomanana of mismanagement and tyranny. He also accused him of attempting to sell all of Madagascar’s most arable land to a Korean consortium which he (Mr. Rajoelina) described as a plot by Mr. Ravalomanana to encourage neo-colonialism.

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