African business, politics and lifestyle
Madagascar: a slow-motion coup
It seems Madagascar’s slow-motion coup has at last come to a head with the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, announced almost casually in a text message from one of his aides.
The change has been a long time coming — the first outbreaks of violence were in January — and it’s all rather different from what many would regard as the traditional African coup d’etat.
Over the years that has developed into a familiar formula — the dawn announcement from a little-known colonel on national radio, the setting up of a military council to restore order after the sins of the previous regime, and the vague promise of a return to democracy in due course. The ousted leader may well have been out of the country at the time. The new boys move quickly to consolidate power.
In its final stages, the Madagascar version has been a little slower. Troops announced that they had deployed tanks but initially did not show them on the streets. Soldiers stormed the presidential palace, but the president was not at home. The central bank was seized, but the colonel in command of that operation then announced he had no more orders for the time being.
There is a sense that this is the elite fighting amongst itself for control of an island rich in natural resources and it took a while for the opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina, to gather the support he needed, particularly from the military.
But although the timeline has seemed relaxed, some 135 people have died along the way. Even if the elephants fight slowly, the ants still get crushed.