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Storm in Madagascar

January 28, 2009

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.

Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina are very different characters.

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?


On critical factor behind that crisis has been sofar underplayed. It is a structural one, related to the decentralization process in Madagascar. The borderlines between center and Capital city were made more complex and foggy, and therefore poised to political clashes. In particular, chiefs of neighbourhoods have been designated by authorities who respond to the center,mowning the grass under the mayor’s feet.

Posted by Girardin Benoit | Report as abusive

Madagascar is indeed at a very critical turning point where things could change rapidly for the better…or the worse. President Ravalomanana’s nickname “PDG de la République” or “CEO of the Republic” captures it all: Can one run a country like a business? There are so many parameters and a human dimension that has been too often overlooked in trying to reform at any cost. It includes recent large contracts with foreign firms.
StrategiCo.,, specialises in risk analysis in Africa and the Middle East and has just downgraded Madagascar, rating it 12/14 (14= highest risk) from 9/14 only in December.


The situation in Madagascar seems to be somewhat similar to what’s happening now in other countries (Georgia,Kyrgyzstan).

Posted by Fe | Report as abusive

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