Madagascar: U.S. may slap Rajoelina’s gov’t with sanctions

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The United States has voiced its concerns over a rush to parliamentary elections in Madagascar, now scheduled for March, by the de facto regime of Andry Rajoelina. A continued atmosphere of intimidation and unilateralism may soon result in the leveling of sanctions by the international community, said Karl Wycoff, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Sanctions could result if political entities on the island continue to impede an early return to constitutional rule, he said.

In an interview last week, Wycoff said, “The United States and the international community will continue their efforts to develop and support a process that leads to an early return of constitutional government in Madagascar, but continued unilateral action and failure to find a mutually acceptable way forward could draw sanctions from the international community.”

Wycoff, a career diplomat whose portfolio includes East and Central Africa, said the United States remains “deeply concerned” about the political crisis in Madagascar. “We support a consensual and political solution, and we are completely opposed to the unilateral actions that the de facto regime has taken in recent weeks. We do not see that as a way forward for Madagascar.” Such unilateral actions, he added, “will only delay the resolution of the political situation and a return to constitutional government.” What is urgently needed, he said, is a “return to the Maputo Accord, the Addis Agreement, which both promote an inclusive process that leads to a consensual, open, fair, transparent election.”

Asked about the regime’s unilateral actions, Wycoff said the de facto regime has made a unilateral decision to rush to elections. “That is unacceptable,” Wycoff stressed, while noting that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) January 14 issued a communiqué rejecting this approach. Wycoff also condemned the unilateral dismissal of the consensus prime minister.

“The United States,” he stressed, “is also concerned about an atmosphere of intimidation in Madagascar. The political space there has been closed down; media and journalists are being harassed. Opposition figures are unable to operate freely and the security services are continuing to infringe human rights and this has not been addressed, which has lead to an atmosphere of intimidation.”

Because of the continued focus by the de facto regime leaders on their personal interests and political future, the Malagasy people continue to suffer on the economic front as well, he said.

“Because of the failure to develop a consensual process for the return of Madagascar to constitutional rule, the United States has been forced to terminate the Millennium Challenge Corporation [MCC] program in Madagascar, to suspend Madagascar’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA], and there has been a tremendous adverse impact on Madagascar’s economy because the business climate has deteriorated because of this political instability. So what looked like a positive picture for Madagascar say a year and a half ago — before this political imbroglio started — where Madagascar was integrating itself into the global community and profiting from AGOA access to U.S. markets, this situation has turned negative for the Malagasy people. They are the ones paying the price.”

The United States has taken steps in terms of its relationship with Madagascar by suspending all assistance to the regime in addition to all nonhumanitarian aid, he said. “We know that others are now reviewing their assistance relationship with Madagascar. We find military assistance is particularly problematic and question why anyone would want to continue military assistance to a nonconstitutional government.”

“The United States supports continued SADC efforts to push forward an acceptable process to return Madagascar to democratic and constitutional rule, and we applaud the efforts of former [Mozambican] President Joaquim Chissano as a mediator in that process,” Wycoff said. “We note the SADC communiqué from yesterday and SADC’s intention to continue that positive role. We also look forward to working with the African Union [AU] as it seeks to get the political process back on track.”

Madagascar was thrown into political crisis in March 2009 when Rajoelina, the former mayor of Madagascar’s capital city, seized power.

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