25 July 2012

Madagascar: After a Failed Mutiny, the Situation Remains Precarious

Photo: Midi Madagasikara
Previous conflict in Madagascar (file photo).


This weekend saw an attempted mutiny by renegade soldiers in Madagascar, who tried to capture a military camp situated near the country's international airport. However, the government clamped down hard on the mutineers, killing the leader, Corporal Koto Mainty, as well as two of his accomplices, and arresting a substantial number of suspects.

This comes at a time when Madagascar is trying to implement the Southern African Development Community (SADC) roadmap to stabilise the country.

Transitional President Andry Rajoelina said that the weekend's mutiny would not deter him from meeting his opponent, deposed ex-president Marc Ravalomanana, in Seychelles on Wednesday. The purpose of this SADC-mediated meeting is to discuss the amnesty legislation that is preventing Ravalomanana, who has been tried in absentia for the murder of 30 protestors, from returning to Madagascar.

According to a new law under consideration, anyone contesting the elections in Madagascar has to be present in the country for six months prior to the election date. It also stipulates that 'individuals who are convicted and not pardoned are neither eligible as candidates nor can [they] vote'. This law is clearly directed at Ravalomanana, as he currently cannot return to Madagascar without facing arrest.

While President Rajoelina is apparently not concerned over the attempted mutiny, it is noteworthy that this will be the third such attempt under his rule. His stay in power greatly depends on continued military support, and thus it is not something he should take lightly. The abortive mutiny could well be traced to the March 2012 protests by the Malagasy military to air their grievances about poor living and working conditions.

This time, even though the reasons for the mutiny are unclear, some believe it was an attempt to voice concern over the current political stalemate and to put pressure on the government. The reality is that the army in Madagascar remains deeply divided, with the potential for cyclical military coups and mutinies.

However, besides the threat of a coup, there are other outstanding issues that have to be addressed before elections can be held.

Firstly, the timeframe will have to be adjusted. It is currently proposed that the elections be held in December, but this is the rainy season, which will make it difficult for many people in Madagascar to reach the voting stations. It will be more viable to hold the elections in May or June 2013, as suggested by the United Nations.

Secondly, there are questions as to how the SADC mediation team will get around Ravalomanana's return to Madagascar, as President Rajoelina has been very clear that he will have Ravolamanana arrested upon his return.

While many expect that the Seychelles meeting could see a breakthrough, personal antagonism between the two leaders could continue undermining the transition process, making the socio-political situation even more precarious. A nascent popular movement led by journalist Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy could also gain momentum in spite of the government's efforts to contain it.

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