African business, politics and lifestyle
Storm in Madagascar
In the relative political calm of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar has long been a centre of turbulence.
Now another political crisis is brewing as the opposition accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of abuse of power and threatening democracy. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters demonstrated in Antananarivo on Wednesday, two days after an earlier rally descended into violence that left nearly 40 people dead.
The bodies of most the victims were found in a burned out clothing store. The authorities said they were looters who got trapped.
The president is a self made millionaire. In his early twenties, he started selling yoghurt off the back of a bicycle. Today, at 59, he is a dairy tycoon with extensive business interests.
Rajoelina is 34 years old and nicknamed TGV, after the French high speed train, for his rapid-fire manner.
He is incensed that the authorities closed down his private TV station after it broadcast an interview with the former president, Didier Ratsiraka. Since he was elected mayor of the capital – a position Ravalomanana once held – Rajoelina has been one of the most vocal critics of the presidency.
Residents of the capital say they now fear a return to the political deadlock of 2001/2002. Then, a dispute over presidential election results between Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka degenerated into eight months of political instability. The economy took a serious hit.
The latest troubles will be no help for Madagascar as it tries to promote itself as a tourist destination alongside other Indian Ocean islands, particularly when the global financial crisis is likely to cut tourist numbers overall.
Even more important are the billions of dollars of foreign investment in mining and oil exploration. Continued turbulence could put that in doubt too.
Can Madagascar afford another long political crisis? How can it be resolved? What do you think?