Art & LifeSportsRajoelina rejects the region *Online Exclusive*


Posted on Friday, 11 September 2009 11:47

Rajoelina rejects the region *Online Exclusive*

By David Zounmenou

In the Know features an interview, opinion or analysis from the people making the news in Africa each week.

On 8 September Madagascar’s military-appointed President Andry Rajoelina announced a 31-member cabinet, ignoring a fragile power-sharing agreement negotiated with ousted-President Marc Ravalomana. David Zounmenou, senior researcher at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies, says persistent antagonism and a lack of political will are compromising international mediation.

Madagascar's Andry Rajoelina caused regional consternation by reappointing the prime minister. Reuters.When President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar announced his resignation on 17 March 2009 and handed over power to a military directorate, very few believed that wasthe end of the power struggle between him and the then Mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina who was promptly declared president.



The subsequent political quagmire has become a serious challenge to regional and continental organisations battling to root out unconstitutional changes of regimes and consolidate their democratic doctrine.



Mediation efforts at the beginning of the crisis were undermined by confusion and a blatant lack of coherent leadership. No less than six mediators were dispatched to Madagascar with little success. The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) initial reactions proved ineffective and its radical approach undermined any attempt at a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Speculations about a military intervention to reinstate Ravalomanana heightened tensions and motivated a hastened judicial process that sentenced him to four years imprisonment and a $70m fine for abusing office – making it difficult for him to return to Madagascar.



This is the first time SADC has been confronted with a case of an ‘unconstitutional change of regime’ and Madagascar is testing the regional body’s mechanisms and Protocols on Democracy and Good Governance. The way SADC approaches the situation will enhance or undermine its credibility in addressing similar political crises within the region.



Although coming slightly late, the SADC extraordinary summit held in Sandton, South Africa, on 20 June to consider the political and security situation in Madagascar did produce a rescue package. Southern African heads of state and government appointed former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to lead the talks between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, thus making political dialogue an essential element in addressing the problem.



The appointment of Chissano, a respected state elder, came barely a week after the African Union and the UN had suspended their own mediation efforts, citing a lack of political will by the two parties. While the Chissano-led International Contact Group has drafted a so-called ‘Charter for the Transition’ highlighting the principles and the organs of the process, sharp disagreements persist on some sensitive issues, including an amnesty law for former presidents, positions in the Government of National Unity (GNU) and other institutions such as the organs for security and defence.



A landmark consensus was reached in Maputo in August on the Charter, but the mediation has remained vague on specific indications and directives to fill the various positions. It is not surprising then, that the mediation process has come to a standstill, and Rajoelina, as President of the High Authority of the Transition, refused to relinquish control over his position and that of the Prime Minister.



At least two major developments followed. On the one hand, former arch-enemies (Presidents Albert Zafy, Didier Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana) have joined forces against Rajoelina, even calling for the army’s intervention. They all want Rajoelina to give up his position or his authority over the Prime Minister. On the other hand, concerns were raised within the Rajoelina camp over the ambitions of the opposition political forces to weaken him and even oust him from power. Rajoelina’s own position was also made difficult as some members of his camp clearly opposed any decision to appoint a new Prime Minister.



In fact, Rajoelina runs the risk of losing the support of key political and military allies if he submits to the demands of the opposition. There is no doubt that his major support in the army comes from the Camp Capsat soldiers, who were responsible for the March mutiny that contributed to the downfall of Ravalomanana. It is also clear that high-ranking military officers, including the defence minister, are in support of the current Prime Minister, Monja Roindefo. Losing Roindefo would mean losing much-needed army support. As Rajoelina’s political survival rested on the decision he has to make regarding his Prime Minister and other key appointments in the GNU, he rejected the formula for the political transition as suggested by SADC’s mediators. On 8 September he reappointed Roindefo and named a cabinet without Ravalomanana’s agreement.



SADC’s mediation seems to be losing its focus. While the major aim is to provide the leadership with a comprehensive formula for the return to constitutional order in Madagascar, it seems that political actors are taking advantage of the process to promote partisan interests. There is little doubt that the strategy behind the opposition’s demand is to get Rajoelina out of power, a mini-coup d’état in disguise. But the position of Head of the Transition as well as that of Prime Minister should not be a contentious issue if SADC mediators understand the power dynamics among the key political actors. They each wish to control the process, capturing the state in an act of political revenge. Ravalomanana has publicly declared that he would never legitimise Rajoelina’s regime.



There is a need for SADC mediation to refocus the discussions on mechanisms for free and fair elections, and consensual political arrangements that could end the cycle of political violence, as this is fast becoming one of the main avenues to power in Africa.



The GNU should be seen as a short-term mechanism to restore democratic order and not a platform for a counter-coup. Understood that way, it becomes unnecessary for former-Presidents Zafy, Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana to insist on the top three positions within the government. Attention should be focused instead on preparing elections and any other related initiative that might pave the way for a legitimate political order.



Although elections provide the opportunity for the country’s citizens to express or reconfirm their adhesion to the democratic process, many challenges lie ahead, including the consolidation of economic development, a continued fight against corruption that implies the separation between public and private business interests, the equitable distribution of resources and, above all, maintaining the confidence of the people in the state’s institutions and in legitimate political leadership.



If the political actors fail to reach consensus, Madagascar could remain unstable and deeply divided not only along political and ethnic lines, but also within the army. And the persistence of the status quo could be a formidable source of instability for the region and could perpetuate the cycle of political violence as a strategy to conquer and maintain power in Madagascar.



A successful negotiation could help pave the way for successful political transition giving the opportunity for profound political reforms in Madagascar, based on democratic norms and institutions. This in itself is a powerful incentive for the lifting of sanctions and allowing foreign investment.But one should not exclude the possibility of a compromised transition that encourages constitutional reforms to allow Rajoelina to stand and most likely win the presidential elections in an attempt to ‘legitimise’ his rule. There are powerful geo-political forces and interests at play in his tough stance. Major foreign companies have flooded into the country looking to extract oil, nickel, cobalt, coal, gold and uranium. This could make it even more difficult for external key partners to keep the pressure on for substantial political and socio-economic transformation.


David Zounmenou is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa




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