By Annelie Rozeboom, 28 February 2012
The South African Development Community (SADC) has asked the authorities to grant the former leader amnesty by today.
The 53-year-old Marie Jeanne Rasahondrafina and her fellow demonstrators cried when former President Marc Ravalomanana's attempt to return to his home country was cut short in midair and his plane was turned back to South Africa. "We were all standing on the road to the airport and didn't make it back home until ten o'clock that night," she says.
Since Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in a military takeover fronted by former DJ Andry Rajoelina in 2009, Rasahondrafina and her friends have demonstrated weekly for his return. They meet at what used to be Ravalomanana's wholesale business, Magro, which was looted and burned by his opponents. Manifestations outside this building are forbidden and often met with tear gas. "If we don't come here, no one will know that there was a coup in our country," Rasahondrafina explains her constant presence.
After Ravalomanana's two aborted attempts to return to his followers, the South African Development Community (SADC) has asked the authorities to grant the former leader amnesty by 29 February. However, no one really expects this to happen. SADC negotiations have been ongoing for three years, and Rajoelina seems willing to agree to all kinds of demands, from firing his military prime minister to setting up a new unity government which includes members of the opposition. But when it comes to Ravalomanana's return the transitional president has a blind spot. In a recent speech he promised his followers to never let his rival come back, because, as he puts it, Ravalomanana is only out to create trouble in the country.
While this hard stance is popular with his supporters, rumours abide that the military and the current prime minister are losing patience with the situation. Rajoelina was expected to eventually become a recognised leader - but instead, the foreign community branded his takeover a coup and suspended all aid except for humanitarian.
The country has been paying a heavy price. Madagascar's GDP has gone from 7.1 percent in 2008 to -2 in 2010. In 2011, the country topped the Forbes list of the World's Worst Economies. The World Bank in its recent report stated that, along with a dramatic rise in poverty levels and an alarming deterioration in governance, Madagascar is gradually sinking into a state of increased fragility. The state of health and education is close to an emergency situation, because the system of delivery of public services risks paralysis.
At the Magro building, people feel the crisis. Rasahondrafina, a civil servant working for the National Nutritional Office, received her last salary in September, more than four months ago, because the government has run out of money. She now gets by with selling arts and crafts. Many demonstrators have become jobless during the crisis. "We had roads, a new educational system, the AGOA trade agreement with the United States, security, cheap food and jobs. Now we have nothing," says Rasahondrafina about the changes in the last three years.
Ravalomanana's supporters are sure their leader can set all this right. The ousted president plans to participate in the next elections, an event which Rajoelina has promised and postponed repeatedly. "When Dada returns, our country will become even better than before. He's not the one who is asking to come back; it's the people here, who need him. We will keep pressuring Andry Rajoelina until he is forced to let him back in," says Rasahondrafina.
Source : AllAfrica.com