21 January 2013

Madagascar: Why Madagascar May End Political Crisis

Photo: L'Express Mada
Andry Rajoelina


The announcement by Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina, last week, that he would not run in Madagascar's May presidential elections, was a decision that could end the political crisis there.

It was also one of the major successes of the Chairman of the SADC Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, thus far in realizing Madagascar's road to peace.

President Kikwete said that he (Rajoelina) had taken the decision for the sake of peace and stability for the people and country of Madagascar.

He noted that the SADC also commends former president of Madagascar Mr Marc Ravalomanana who also pledged in December, his intention not to run in the presidential elections. The former president of Madagascar was overthrown in 2009 in a coup.

"This is an example of maturity in politics and putting the interests of the public at the forefront," President Kikwete observed. He explained that the SADC leadership will work with Madagascar through the presidential and parliamentary elections set to take place in May and July this year. Andry Rajoelina said that he would not run in Madagascar's May presidential elections, a decision that could end the political crisis there.

"I will not be a candidate at the elections, I will sacrifice myself for the sake of the 20-million Malagasy," he said in a prime-time TV address to the nation. Rajoelina had been under fierce international pressure not to run in the polls, as a way to end an almost four-year crisis that has led to a range of sanctions that have crippled the island state's economy.

"I will manage the transition until the end and I am ready to make a democratic transition. I wish all the best to whomever will replace me," he said. The man Rajoelina ousted in a military-backed coup, former president Marc Ravalomanana, already heeded calls not to run in the elections.

He remains in exile in South Africa. The dual announcements mean the first round of elections on May 8 will open a new chapter in Madagascar's coup-prone politics. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have dominated the political scene for the last decade, their rivalry defining the nation's politics.

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), a 15-nation regional bloc that has been mediating in the crisis, and the European Union had pressed for just such a "neither, nor" solution as a means of ending the gridlock. "Anything that promotes and encourages peace and quiet is extremely positive," EU ambassador to Madagascar Leonidas Tezapsidis said after Rajoelina's speech.

The international community is expected to stump up for a large part of the election's $71-million price tag. Unrest But it is unlikely to be smooth sailing ahead. Ravalomanana's camp greeted its rival's announcement coolly. "Andry Rajoelina has followed SADC's recommendations.

It is just one element. There are many other measures that have to take place," said Ravalomanana ally Mamy Rakotoarivelo. Ahead of the presidential vote the country was due to hold legislative elections, which could provide ample scope for unrest. The decision to move the legislative vote, also announced on Tuesday, was described as "changing the rules in the middle of the game", by the Ravalomanana camp.

Its champion's proposed return from exile could also provide a flashpoint. Ravalomanana made several failed attempts to return to the island off south-east Africa, but faces a host of legal challenges. He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment over the killing of 36 protesters by presidential guards during the 2009 unrest that led to his downfall.

The 63-year-old, who started out his career as a milkman, clinched the presidency in a 2001 election after serving as mayor of the capital but was criticised for an increasingly autocratic and corruption-tainted rule. Rajoelina (38) is a former radio disc jockey who also served as mayor of the capital before ousting Ravalomanana on the back of a wave of violent protests.

President Kikwete, welcomed and fully commended the public declaration made by President Rajoelina, for this courageous decision which demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt his commitment and his aspirations to the maintenance and promotion of peace in Madagascar and his patriotism to his country and to his own fellow Malagasy people.

Following this declaration, the chairman of the Organ Troika on behalf of SADC Summit subsequently issued the SADC Declaration on Madagascar as adopted by the Organ Troika Summit held in Dar Es Salaam on the 10 - 11th of January, this year.

The Declaration was embargoed pending the statement by President Rajoelina. Following is the Declaration: Recalling all the decisions taken by the SADC Summits of Heads of State and Government on the political situation in Madagascar; Recognizing the need of preserving the interests of the Malagasy people; Reaffirming: (i) that the Roadmap remains the only viable mechanism for ending the crisis in Madagascar;

(ii) further our commitment to help the Malagasy people put an end to the political crisis in Madagascar and return the country to constitutional normalcy; (iii) the need of respecting the electoral calendar as adopted by the National Independent Electoral Commission of the Transition (CENIT) and the United Nations (UN).

We, Presidents Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (of the United Republic of Tanzania), Hifikepunye Pohamba (of the Republic of Namibia), and Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (of the Republic of South Africa) of the SADC Organ Troika and President Armando Emilio Guebuza, (of the Republic of Mozambique), Chairperson of SADC, hereby decide as follows:

1. Welcome and commend the undertaking made by H.E. Andry Rajoelina, President of Transition in Madagascar and H.E. Marc Ravalomanana, former President of Madagascar to the effect that they will not stand for the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections;

2. Urge the Malagasy people to promote the spirit of reconciliation, peace and stability and to refrain from all acts of destabilization in the country;

3. Also urge the Malagasy political stakeholders to assume their responsibility of peacefully delivering Madagascar out of the crisis;

4. Reiterate that Government Members should resign from office sixty (60) days before the election date, should they decide to run for the legislative and/or presidential elections as provided for in Article 14 of the Roadmap;

5. Also reiterate that "the President, the Government, the Heads of Institutions and the entire administrative machinery of the Transition shall remain neutral during the transition period, particularly in the electoral process" (Article 15 of the Roadmap);

6. Further reiterate the SADC endorsement of the electoral calendar of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections scheduled for May and July 2013;

7. Call upon the Malagasy Parliament of Transition to enact legislation to grant comprehensive amnesty to H.E. Andry Rajoelina, President of the Transition in Madagascar and H.E. Marc Ravalomanana, former President of Madagascar. This amnesty should also be extended to the Malagasy security forces;

8. Urge the Malagasy Parliament of Transition to enact legislation on status of former Malagasy Presidents. This legislation should include relevant privileges and immunities;

9. SADC leadership and the SADC Mediator on Madagascar will continue to be seized with the matter.

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