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Marc Ravalomanana : His first and last meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy
on 12 april 2008 in l’Elysée (Paris)

Does “new” English spoken Presidents of Sadc knows what was happened in Madagascar in 2002 ? Here is the truth. Read attentively the following. With Marc Ravalomanana, the song remains the same and Joachim Chissano knows exactly what’s about Dakar I Agreement…

On 22 February 2002, Marc Ravalomanana declared himself president. This action immediately fanned the flames of crisis at home and created a quandary for the international community. Almost unanimously, the international community chose to regard this dangerous and destabilising move as undermining the constitutional process. Even the United States and Germany, which particularly feared a Ratsiraka victory, could not condone this action and tried to convince Ravalomanana to recant. The formal statement by the US Embassy declared:

“...the United States government objects to the action taken by the leading opposition candidate, Marc Ravalomanana, to declare himself president. The United States urges Mr Ravalomanana and all parties to consider carefully the repercussions that extra-legal and or violent actions could have in Madagascar in future and its relationships with the international community”.

France and the OAU took the strongest stands against Ravalomanana’s declaration. The Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Amara Essy, stated:

“I made it clear to Ravalomanana’s supporters that if their candidate was inaugurated contrary to constitutional provisions, the OAU would neither tolerate nor accept that unconstitutional change of Government, by virtue of the Algiers Decision of July 1999 and the Lomé Declaration of July 2000. I therefore encouraged him to accept the second round to confirm the choice of voters”.

Ravalomanana countered that Ratsiraka was merely using the time to mobilise his cronies to ensure that a proper second round could not be successful. Further OAU efforts to ameliorate the crisis proved futile.

For his part, Ratsiraka seized upon Ravalomanana’s extreme actions as an opportunity to further centralise his power. Article 59 of the Malagasy constitution states that the President may declare Martial Law, effectively wresting power from both the provinces and the other branches of government with the “agreement of the Presidents of the National Assembly, the Senate, and the Constitutional Court.” Having such strong institutional backing and given the ill-considered actions of Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka declared a State of Emergency that same day, which only served to further incite the protestors. The festive climate of the support for Ravalomanana began to change as the stakes were raised. Though Ravalomanana’s vocal supporters diminished in number, they became more strident and violent. Within a week, injuries resulted as protestors used rocks and sticks to try to suppress their rivals.

Ravalomanana, backed by this intensity of support, resorted to another strategy: calling for a referendum. Rather than a second round of elections, he argued there should be a popular referendum on the validity of his victory. Meanwhile, he continued forming a government as the new “president.” He asked his “prime minister,” Jacques Sylla, to form a cabinet. He also galvanised the support of one of the country’s largest civil society organisations, the Protestant FJKM (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar ).

Ratsiraka declared Martial Law on 28 February 2002, without institutional challenge. Effectively, General Leon Claude Raveloarison became governor of Antananarivo. This afforded Ratsiraka the constitutional power to suspend the right of protest, employ strong-arm military tactics, and attempt to control the press. That he used these new powers more to further his political claims and avoid transparent vote-counting was immaterial to his legal status; it was a case of upholding the constitutional process while subverting the intent of constitutional Article 59. If the subversion of intent outweighed the overtly extra-constitutional measures of Marc Ravalomanana, then the answer to the question as to whether Ravalomanana’s actions were justified is in the affirmative.

What was critical was that Ravalomanana did not only openly defy the declaration of Martial Law, he ignored it altogether. He swore in his new cabinet, the members of which took up their posts within the week. In a particularly unusual event, the new ministers approached their respective government offices with tens of thousands of supporters behind them. General Raveloarison had given the order for the military to “defend” the ministries, but that would have meant firing on the large number of unarmed Ravalomanana supporters. In the event, the soldiers stood back and the new ministers took over without bloodshed.

With hindsight, the justification for Ravalomanana’s actions must be measured against the consequences, in that they brought out the sort of instability the US, France, OAU, and others had feared – the country was split in two. The pro-Ratsiraka governors of the five provinces (Mahajanga, Toamasina, Toliara, Fianarantsoa and Antsiranana) declared on 4 March that they were autonomous of Antananarivo. They established a “capital” of the autonomous provinces in Ratsiraka’s home town of Toamasina. Part of the army, led by Ravalomanana’s new “defense minister” Major-General Mamizara Jules, ignored this declaration, while pro-Ratsiraka forces were decentralised and told to obey only their immediate officers, not the central command. Ratsiraka’s support for this change of capital was, perhaps, a tactical error. It was his first significant violation of the constitution, which clearly afforded only Antananarivo the status of capital city, with no provision for any alternative. The resulting state of affairs was becoming increasingly dangerous and unstable.

International efforts to stave off a complete Balkanisation of the country were stepped up. Cape Verdian President Anton io Mascarenhas Monteiro led an OAU negotiation team to Antananarivo on 5 March. This group quickly concluded that there were effectively two rival governments operating in rival capitals. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin personally called on both sides to compromise; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan effectively labelled Ravalomanana’s actions a coup and supported cries for a compromise that would lead the country back to the ballot box. Yet, even as the official representatives of the international community condemned Ratsiraka, expatriate enthusiasm was apparent. Americans living in Antananarivo wrote a collective letter challenging the US position, and their government for its inaction early in the conflict. Rallies in Réunion accused the French government of supporting Ratsiraka for reasons of personal gain. The Paris-based Malagasy Council of Environment and Development, the largest Malagasy expatriate organisation, signed a petition condemning the French government and the international community in general for acting legalistically to the point of frustrating democratic will.

March saw a further increase in conflict. The KMMR targeted Samuel Lahady’s position as Toamasina’s governor. As Ratsiraka fled to Toamasina to consolidate his defences, the five self-proclaimed autonomous provinces cut off Antananarivo from the key ports and supplies; oil and food in particular became scarce in the capital. Ratsiraka initiated a campaign of violence in which his supporters would threaten and, in some cases, kill Merina merchants on the coast. In a sign that ethnicity was becoming the plaything of political entrepreneurs, Ratsiraka incited his supporters to pretend to be Merina and threaten côtier groups in the hopes of raising the accusation that Ravalomanana was playing at ethnopolitics. Ravalomanana’s acting “Prime Minister,” Jacques Sylla, responded, saying “We do not accept any terrorist act committed in our territory.” So began the reclassification of Ratsiraka’s support movement. Meanwhile, in Antananarivo, protestors clashed even where armies did not, killing more than half a dozen people and injuring another 40 by the end of the month. General Raveloarison, unable to maintain security, persuade his troops to clamp down on protestors, or restore order, resigned his post as governor of Antananarivo a month after assuming the position. The International Monetary Fund left the country, joining the majority of bilateral donors. Discussions began about whether civil war was inevitable.

April did not see civil war, but there was escalation in conflict as the once neutral military continued to fracture between the camps of the presidential rivals. Antananarivo was further isolated, as bridges from the coast to the landlocked capital were blown up, ensuring no private operators could bring in supplies of any kind. The Antananarivo homes of some of Ratsiraka’s ministers, who had already fled the capital, were burned down.

A number of international attempts were made to seek a resolution of the conflict. The most important of these was by a high-powered OAU-sponsored delegation comprising Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, President Gbagbo from Côte d’Ivoire, President Kérékou from Benin and President Chissano of Mozambique; this brought the two rivals to Dakar.

The result was the Dakar Agreement of 18 April 2002, the five articles of which were a reflection of how much ground Ratsiraka had already lost. The Agreement was a compromise in which Ratsiraka agreed to another recount, and a popular referendum in the event of there being no clear victor from the first round of elections. Should this happen, a transitional government would be established and an Independent Electoral Commission would replace the National Electoral Commission. Unfortunately, the timing of the Agreement was unpropitious, as on 16 April 2002 the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court overturned the 25 January 2002 ruling of the High Constitutional Court which had mandated a second round of elections. The same Chamber also annulled decree No.2001-1080 of 22 November 2001, which had stacked the High Constitutional Court in Ratsiraka’s favour, and called for another recount of its own.

Ratsiraka interpreted the Chamber’s actions as a personal affront on the part of vacillating justices. In a sense the Chamber’s judgement was probably not too radical a legal interpretation, as the sudden shift of judicial favour seemed to follow the trend towards a Ravalomanana victory. Ratsiraka distanced himself from the Dakar Agreement before his plane even touched down on his return to Madagascar. On 29 April 2002 the newly constituted High Constitutional Court announced the results of its recount: Ravalomanana 51.46 percent, Ratsiraka 35.90 percent. Ratsiraka reacted:

three of its nine members, including the president, did not sit in the deliberations and four of the six others who effectively participated in what is referred to as a vote-counting exercise, are in fact close to the Marc Ravalomanana camp.

He therefore refused to accept the results, and the violence escalated further. The Court ruling did, however, give the international community a way out of its impasse. All but the OAU ignored the political wrangling over the Court’s composition in favour of a recognisable confluence between institutional design (following the ruling of the HCC as mandated by the constitution) and a seemingly irresistible social movement. Ravalomanana was re-inaugurated president on 6 May, this time in front of the Court and the representatives of the international community.

In his inaugural address Ravalomanana called for victory and reconciliation even while he assumed a tone of intense nationalism:

...I call on the former president Didier Ratsiraka to help restore these Malagasy values, so that we can move forward hand in hand to develop this country. Indeed we are all sons and daughters of Madagascar...I do wish to make an appeal so that all the pages are turned so that the country can develop rapidly, so that the masses stop suffering... I especially call on you, the armed forces, to now assume your responsibilities. Time for hesitation has now gone … You have now seen that justice, truth and legality emerged as a result of our efforts...

In May the situation continued to deteriorate alarmingly, even as Ravalomanana emerged as the clear political and military victor. He gained some level of control of four of the five provinces that had previously sided with Ratsiraka, which left only Toamasina, under Samuel Lahady’s leadership, a desperate and untenable measure.

The OAU continued to break ranks with the rest of the international community and rejected Ravalomanana’s investiture. It continued shuttle diplomacy throughout the month even as the erstwhile street violence turned into military conflict. A second meeting was held in Dakar on 8 and 9 June. This time Ravalomanana was in a much more favourable position and made sure all in attendance knew it. The Second Dakar Agreement (Dakar II) had committed both sides to move towards early legislative elections as a sort of proxy vote. If Ravalomanana’s supporters were to win a parliamentary majority, then Ratsiraka would recognise the presidency of Ravalomanana; if Ratsiraka’s supporters were to win the legislative majority then Ravalomanana would agree to a presidential referendum.

From the perspective of enhancing democracy and seeking the expression of popular will, this Agreement was, in comparison with Dakar I, a poor document. Not only did it undermine the Malagasy constitution, it belittled the importance of the separation of powers contained therein. Its success would be predicated on the population voting in the same pattern for a legislator as for the president, a curious assumption. It proved immaterial as the Dakar II Agreement was no more successful than Dakar I.

Collected, edited and published by Jeannot Ramambazafy

Source : Richard R. Marcus (August 2004)

Richard R. Marcus is Associate Professor and Director of the International Studies Program at California State University, Long Beach.  He has a BA in Great Books (New York University), MA in African Studies/Political Science (University of California, Los Angeles), PhD in Political Science (University of Florida), and Certificates in French Language and Civilization (University of Paris), KiSwahili Language (University of Nairobi, Kenya), and Malagasy Language (University of Antananarivo, Madagascar).  He completed dual postdoctoral studies in Globalization and Environmental Studies at Yale University where he was also a Lecturer in Political Science.

Since 1991 Dr. Marcus has conducted research in Madagascar, Kenya, Israel, Uganda, and the U.S.  His research focuses on the relationships between macro-political institutional change, popular perceptions, and decentralization.  He is currently working on a book with the working title Beyond the Water’s Edge: The Relative Power of Community, looking at the way in which decentralization in the water sector has disempowered agro-pastoral populations in Madagascar and Kenya and threatened resource access. Recent and forthcoming publications can be found in such journals as Party Politics, Institute for Security Studies, Journal of Human Development, Current Conservation, Conservation and Society, Journal of the American Water Resources Association,  African Studies Review, Current History, Afrika Spectrum, Human Ecology, Journal of Asian and African Studies, African Studies Quarterly, and diverse edited volumes.

Dr. Marcus is an active member of the International Studies Association, African Studies Association, and American Political Science Association and is Treasurer of the African Politics Conference Group (APCG).  He has served as an “expert” interviewee for diverse media outlets such as Le Monde Diplomatique, Radio France, Voice of America, South African Broadcasting, Midi Madagasikara, IRIN (United Nations), and Bloomberg.  He has also been a consultant for the World Bank, UNDP, SwissPeace, US Department of State, Swedish International Development Agency, and various non-government organizations.

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