Madagascar: Why is Marc Ravalomanana accusing France?

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Marc Ravalomanana, the ousted president of Madagascar, Tuesday denounced France, the country’s colonial ruler, for supporting his rival, President of the transition regime, Andry Rajoelina. According to him, France is seeking to “re-colonize” Madagascar. But could this be Marc Ravalomanana’s new strategy to rally populist support?

Marc Ravalomanana has decided not to mince his words. In a recent radio broadcast, the ousted president accused Paris of openly “supporting” Andry Rajoelina and “wanting to colonize” the great island. According to Francis Soler, editor of La lettre de l’Ocean Indien, this is tantamount to “a confession of weakness”. “Marc Ravalomanana is losing ground, both economically and politically. He thought the Malagasy army and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would support him, but this is not the case. His statements are provocative and tinged with bitterness. ”

Andry Rajoelina, the darling of the French?

The ousted president is trying to discredit Andry Rajoelina’s regime after they opposed his return Thursday. The African Union and France, who had condemned the Mr. Rajoelina’s rise to power earlier this year, are currently reviewing their positions. According to La lettre de l’Ocean Indien, the French Head of State, Nicolas Sarkozy, asked Muammar Gaddafi, Presdent of the African Union, to meet with Andry Rajoelina. “At first, they criticized his seizure of power … but as there is a tendancy of a change of tone after a fait accompli, Paris has changed its attitude,” says Francis Soler.

Economic interests

An anonymous article published on the 27th of March 2009 in Top Mada, an online Malagasy newspaper, said to be pro-Ravalomanana, argued that economic relations between the former head of state and Paris could be behind Marc Ravolomanana’s fall. Some of these economic interests include the Bemolonga oil field, which is coveted by Total, the paper indicates. According the article, the former president was not a keen supporter of the French group, but instead China Petroleum Corporation, one of the largest oil companies in the world. A tactical error that, reportedly, cost him his title.

“After his rise to power,” writes Top Mada, “French companies that enjoyed monopoly, such as as Colas, found themselves competing with companies from the United States, Canada, South Africa and Asia. The share of French investment fell as a result”. Francis Soler’s analysis, however, begs to differ. He underlines the positive impact of Marc Ravalomanana’s policies on French investments. “He proposed a diversification of economic relations… Colas, a major French construction company, benefited from those policies” he says. “Although its market share has reduced, it has, nonetheless, increased its business activities. The construction market has grown (and) the French have benefited from it. The former president is not anti-French, he is only very nationalistic,” the journalist remarked. As the owner of “Tiko” and “Magro”, nationalism also served Marc Ravalomanana’s interests in the Madagascan food industry.

By declaring that France supports Andry Rajoelina at the expense of the fundamental interests of the Malagasy people, the former head of state has seemingly succeeded an impressive media stunt. But he would need more than promoting anti-French sentiments to return to power in a country mired in an enigmatic political imbroglio.

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