Madagascar is celebrating its fiftieth independence anniversary in a backdrop of division as Malagasy political groups opposed to Rajoelina, the country’s self-proclaimed president of the Haute Autorité de la Transition (HAT), have decided to boycott the ceremony scheduled for Saturday. The Island has been undergoing a serious political upheaval since end 2008.
Many Malagasy citizens have decided to say no to a national tradition: No national flags on their balconies or windows this year. Madagascar is celebrating its fiftieth independence anniversary at a time when the Southern African country is undergoing its worst political crisis yet.
The ruling regime, La Haute Autorité de la Transition (HAT), chaired by Andry Rajoelina who has been ruling the country since President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in March 2009, has decided to go beyond the usual pomp and circumstance. The celebrations will be particularly marked by a succession of free concerts. Playing the unity card, the government has invited international dignitaries and the opposition to join in the official celebration on Saturday, June 26.
But without much surprise, the three former presidents – Didier Ratsiraka, Albert Zafy and Marc Ravalomanana – have declined the invitation while confirming that they were boycotting the festivities altogether. “These are unilateral initiatives taken by the HAT, which is not recognized,” a supporter of Albert Zafy was quoted as saying by L’Express Madagsacar.
Last Saturday, supporters of Marc Ravalomanana organized a parallel rally on the parking lot of one of the ex-president’s companies.
Meanwhile, diplomatic representations see themselves under the obligation of consulting their various governments on their expected code of conduct, following the international community’s failure to adopt a common position on their participation in the official independence celebrations. The international community does not recognize the Rajoelina regime.
Nonetheless, the possibility of a boycott does not seem to bother the Malagasy Government. Stopping short of confirming the HAT’s official diplomatic guest list, Hippolyte Ramaroson, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said he believed that the various dignitaries would answer favourably to the Malagasy government’s invitation. “It will be a surprise,” he said.
Numerous unsuccessful post-crisis negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of the international community since Rajoelina took over power. Last May, the Chairman of the HAT announced that he would hold a referendum in August, followed by parliamentary elections in September. He also said he would not stand for president in November. The three opposition parties have in return announced that they would not participate in the electoral process.