Andry Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, leaders of four major political parties in Madagascar began roundtable negotiations Wednesday in Maputo, Mozambique at the Southern African Development Community summit on the crisis in Madagascar. The objective of the summit is to advocate for an end to hostilities that have rocked the island since the beginning of the year through signing of a charter. They also wish to encourage the transitional government to hold new elections in the earliest possible time.
Whilst many political analysts believe that this is a crucial moment, others think that this meeting is possibly the last chance to heave Madagascar out of the political crisis that has rocked the country’s foundations since the overthrow of President Marc Ravalomanana, last March. Under the auspices of the International Contact Group (ICG) headed by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, the heads of the four main Malagasy political parties met Wednesday in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, for a three-day summit. For the first time, Andry Rajoelina (the current leader of Madagascar) and his rival Marc Ravalomanana (now in exile in South Africa), Didier Ratsiraka (ousted by Marc Ravalomanana after a very controversial presidential election in 2002) and former President Albert Zafy, are meeting to negotiate at first hand.
“This meeting is very important because the crisis in which we live today in Madagascar is very grave. We hope to find a solution at the Maputo meeting,” Albert Zafy said on Tuesday.
Indeed, since the forced departure of Marc Ravolomanana, Madagascar has returned to the cycle of violence, which has seemingly become the trademark for leadership change since 2002. In defiance of an administrative ban, supporters of deposed president Ravalomanana, defining themselves as “legal defenders of the rule of law”, show up to demonstrate in the capital, Antananarivo, almost on daily basis. Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of the city and now leader of the country, has not been able to garner the necessary majority support to help calm tensions despite a general support from the military who installed him as president of the High Transition Authority.
The outcome; hundreds dead coupled with a harsh economic downturn. The new power has carried out dozens of arrests within the support base of Mr. Ravolomanana. It is therefore from his prison cell that Manandafy Rakotonirina, nominated as “prime minister” by Ravalomanana from his exile base in South Africa, is expected to monitor the developments of the Maputo summit.
The international community
It is in this light that the International Contact Group (ICG), established by the international community, began a series of discussions with representatives of the four main Malagasy political parties in April. To bring the together under the same umbrella, Joachim Chissano, President of ICG, designated by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) got strong backing from Tiébilé Dramé, United Nations representative, Ablassé Ouédraogo, representative of the African Union and Edem Kodjo, representative of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Together they worked to invite Marc Ravolomanana and Andry Rajoelina, the two main players in the current Malagasy crisis, as well as Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, two former presidents.
The successful openining of the Maputo summit is as a result of these discussions. The different parties should work on five major issues: “peaceful transition, amnesty, transitional leader, a consensus government and the return of President Ravalomanana,” says Tiébilé Drame.
If successful, the Maputo summit would allow Madagascar to emerge from the crippling crisis. “It is now up to the Malagasy political stakeholders to make the concessions necessary to conclude the Malagasy transitional charter,” said Drame. The charter is expected to facilitate a smooth ride towards a new presidential election, in which each party may present their own candidate.
According to Didier Ratsiraka, after it is signed, the charter should be applied and respected by all. It should be in “the best interests of the nation and not for partisan or selfish interests”, Mr. Ratsiraka said. Mr. Rajoelina also believes that the search for consensus should override resentment. “Negotiating with Mr. Ravalomanana, or Admiral Didier Ratsiraka, or Professor Albert Zafy is not a problem, as long as the subject focuses on the future of Madagascar,” Rajoelina said, shortly before leaving for the summit in Maputo.
If the summit fails its core purpose, the political crisis could worsen and contribute to Madagascar’s international isolation.