Rajoelina Hangs Tough
26 January 2012
The government of Andry Rajoelina in Madagascar is colluding with France to prevent the return of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana to the island, undermining the SADC Road Map agreed upon last year to return Madagascar to political and economic stability.
Last weekend SADC faced the most serious challenge to its authority and its ability to implement its decisions and impose its will on member states, following the near collapse of the Road Map process.
In the most dramatic illustration of the Road Map being in trouble, Ravalomanana - exiled in South Africa for three years - attempted to return to Madagascar, but his commercial flight was refused entry into the country by Rajoelina's government. Article 20 of the Road Map, to which both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana are signatories, guarantees the "unconditional return" to Madagascar of exiled political leaders, including Ravalomanana. However, Ravalomanana has a warrant out for his arrest following his conviction in absentia for murder and "crimes against humanity" by a Malagasy court.
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Ravalomanana's move and the Rajoelina government's response has provoked an angry rejoinder from South African diplomats, who feel the two sides are not fully co-operating with the SADC-sponsored reconciliation effort in the troubled Indian Ocean island. An urgent meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Troika countries (South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania) on Tuesday had strong words for the Malagasy political leadership and their attitude to the Road Map.
Deputy South African International Relations Minister Marius Fransman, the man responsible for getting 10 of Madagascar's 11 mouvances to sign up to the Road Map last year, did not mince words: "It was very unfortunate and irresponsible of President Ravalomanana [to attempt a unilateral return to the island]. The move could have impacted negatively on the lives of innocent passengers on the commercial flight he took.
"Equally, it is irresponsible of President Rajoelina to continue to speak about warrants and arrests when he agreed to an amnesty process for [Ravalomanana] to allow him to return home. All parties must abide by the provisions of the Road Map agreed to last year."
But implementing the SADC roadmap - let alone forcing all parties to abide by it - will be a tall order for the regional group, whose legal and security instruments are perennially weak and subject to manipulation by outside powers.
In Madagascar, SADC's efforts are currently being undermined by France, the island's former colonial rulers. The troika countries have evidence that Rajoelina is working with Paris, Madagascar's Army Chief of Staff General Andre Ndriarijaona, and the commander of the Gendarmerie (police), Bruno Razafindrako, to deny Ravalomanana his right to re-enter the country.
On 21 January, the day Ravalomanana attempted his quixotic return, Rajoelina attempted to persuade SADC to delay his arrival for three months.
At the same time, France commenced its own intense lobbying in other international bodies to keep Ravalomanana from the country. The aim of these delays appears to be to prevent Ravalomanana - who continues to command significant popular support on the island - from being in Madagascar when an election is held under the terms of a transition agreed to last year.
Security services in the region say they are aware of a 6-point strategy devised by Paris and Antananarivo to prevent Ravalomanana from returning. According to these sources, Rajoelina, his heads of security and France decided to:
Deploy security forces loyal to Rajoelina inside the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo.
Deploy Rajoelina supporters outside the airport to antagonise and destabilise the estimated 100 000 Ravalomanana supported expected at the airport to welcome him home.
Issue statements threatening the Ravalomanana supporters with arrest.
Threaten to arrest Ravalomanana on arrival.
Lobby the international community to persuade SADC not to allow Ravalomanana back.
As a last resort, issue a Notice to All Airmen (NOTAM) to deny landing rights to all airlines. This effectively closed down the country's airspace.
Anticipating an unfavourable reaction by SADC to these manoeuvres, Antananarivo hastily issued a statement on Saturday justifying its actions. In it, Rajoelina's government denied turning the South African AirLink flight back and instead blamed the decision on the flight's captain, who it said had chosen to go back to Johannesburg after being informed the authorities would execute the arrest warrant against his most famous passenger.
In the statement, the Rajoelina government threatened to send a "special plane" to fetch Ravalomanana from Johannesburg back to the island to "face justice. Actions related to this will be initiated immediately with the South African government," they said.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
That suggestion alone - though it is unactionable, since no extradition agreement exists between Pretoria and Madagascar - incensed South African officials so much they had Rajoelina on the phone on Saturday night, warning him about "inflaming" the situation in the country.
This week the troika countries called a meeting with all Malagasy parties and emphasized that the Road Map, especially the amnesty process meant to pave the way towards election later this year, should be speeded up to prevent any future repeats of last weekend's dramatic events.
source : http://allafrica.com/stories/201201270077.html