Madagascar: “the foundations of a civil war is being witnessed”

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Renewed violence in Madagascar over the weekend left two dead and one seriously injured, following a unilateral decision taken by Andry Rajoelina, President of the High Transitional Authority, to form a new government outside the provisions of the recent Maputo agreement, while bypassing all parties involved in the crisis. Fifteen people, including a senator were arrested during the demonstration. Disappointed, the heads of the three main political parties, Didier Ratsiraka, Marc Ravalomanana and Albert Zafy, have decided to join forces against him. They plan to extend demonstrations into the hinterland.

“We cannot allow a person like Andry Rajoelina to run the country because he does not keep to his word and does not respect his commitments, even if they are his own initiatives.” Former president Albert Zafy could not contain his anger as he spoke to the press Sunday in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. This comes after Andry Rajoelina stood him up alongside his counterparts. A few days prior, Albert Zafy had written to the new Malagasy strong man suggesting a meeting to talk about ways to defuse the tension caused by his unilateral formation of a new government, in defiance of the Maputo power sharing deal. Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana had agreed to be present.

Positively responding to this initiative, Andry Rajoelina said the meeting would take place on Sunday at the “Palais des verres” in the capital. Didier Ratsiraka, Marc Ravalomanana and Albert Zafy turned up at the appointed time and were made to wait outside, behind the gates, for Andry Rajoelina who never turned up. The police denied them access into the building. Humiliated and shamed, Albert Zafy, called the former mayor of Antananarivo a “liar” and a “dictator”. He has also asked for a public apology.

Andry Rajoelina accused of undermining peace efforts

Albert Zafy is convinced that Andry Rajoelina’s intention to break the Maputo agreement could plunge the island into absolute chaos. Antananarivo indeed returned to the urban violence that rocked the country after the overthrow of Marc Ravalomana last March, over the weekend (Friday and Saturday). Pro and anti-Rajoelina demonstrators clashed in the streets of the capital, leaving two people dead and one seriously injured. Fifteen people, including Senator Menabe Eliane Naika, were arrested when the police intervened to disperse the demonstrators. The pro-Marc Ravolamana Senator was, reportedly, beaten during his arrest Saturday, and later thrown into a gendarmerie cell.

Some protesters attacked French installations on the island. A hotel and a company known as Sicam, a subsidiary of Caillé, were attacked, while a Total service station was hit by a grenade. Interviewed on a local radio station, General Désiré Rakotoarijaona, former prime minister under Didier Ratsiraka said “the foundations of a civil war” was being witnessed. He urged Andry Rajoelina to “urgently return” to the negotiating table to “prevent” the country “from further strife.” The General also advised the military to avoid “partisan violence” and to remain neutral during the crisis. “Soldiers should not be involved in politics (…) If people had been given a chance to express themsleves (…) there would be no renewed violence,” he warned.

The opposition believes that Andry Rajoelina is responsible for the deterioration of an already difficult situation. This has led vowed political enemies, Didier Ratsiraka, Marc Ravalomanana and Albert Zafy to join forces against him, coming together under a common umbrella. Together, the three have promised to challenge Rajoelina across the country. “We will hold rallies in the provinces (…) to explain the reality (of the situation) to people because they have little access to information. Access to the media is limited,” said Albert Zafy, suggesting that the national media did not cover the whole truth.

This new strategy from the opposition seems to have struck a nerve in Rajoelina’s government. Among other government officials who reacted to the news was Roland Ratsiraka, member of the High transitional Authority. They must “leave the population alone”, he said, indicating that it was “the beginning of the academic year”. The opposition, meanwhile, is determined to get Andry Rajoelina to the negotiating table. “We will not stop until (he) complies with the Maputo agreement,” said Albert Zafy.

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