In defense of Rajoelina and Ravalomanana in #Madagascar

I have been receiving a few emails ( some nastier than others ) about my take on the events in Madagascar. This is an attempt at clearing things up because my name and avatar were used in many forums, unbeknown to me, writing words that I never thought of.


So for the sake of clarity and full disclosure, here is my personal view on what transpired in Madagascar, in chronological order:

  • There was a laundry list of bad governance in the past few years in Madagascar. There was also an evident recognition of Madagascar as a good place to invest with a strong ROI. It is also a fact that those investments did not benefit the majority of the population who still suffered from endemic poverty.

  • The Malagasy power shift was a military-backed takeover. No legal lingo can refute the fact that without the support of the CAPSAT ( one faction of the army) and (most probably) foreign financial lobbies, no power shift would have been possible. The fact that there might be a document from fallen president handing the power over to a military directory is irrelevant to the cause of the power shift.

. Given those two observations, I personally think that:
  • 1) the transitional government only legitimacy or purpose would reside in preparing elections as soon as possible. Any attempt at changing the constitution without a clear mandate from the majority of the population is illegal and should be considered as such.
  • 2) In the event that elections were to happen soon, I support that all candidates willing to do so be allowed to run for presidency, including former presidents and Rajoelina himself. I know that Rajoelina has been lobbying for former presidents to be banned from running ( and what basis I am not sure) and that he is too young according to the constitution but denying him would be denying the voices of a relevant part of the population.
  • 3) I think that instead of criticizing Malagasy citizens' active involvement and discourse in the fate of their country, the so-called "silent majority" should help frame the future and ensure that transparent elections are held. That is the only way we can recover and move forward towards reconciliation. There is a humanitarian crisis and environmental crisis brewing at home and the faster we resolve the political conundrum, the faster we can attend to the problem at end. If we put the foundation of social harmony on the back burner because we have a few upcoming crises or are tired of the crisis, we will prove that we cannot learn from our mistakes in 91 and 02 and will go through all this again in 2012. No more of this shameful nonsense, please.

What of our leaders ?

Yes I am in favor of early elections and I 'd wish that all of them are allowed to run. Why ?

Let's see the argument for each of our protagonist, first Rajoelina:

  • I have been critical of Rajoelina's actions and here is why:
    • 1) his reasons for starting the power struggle and the way he went about fixing an injustice were all wrong: Firstly, he went full force in the crisis because his TV station was shut down. There are a myriad of reason to start a struggle (poverty, monopoly and staple products, poor terms of land deal etc...), the closing of his TV station is not one of them.
    • 2) the crisis has now caused 200 deaths and the loss of investors confidence in Madagascar that has plunged into the abyss of a recession. Was it all worth it ? Wasn't it an option to start campaigning for the election planned in 2012 and build a case for a change of regime ? What was all the rush about ?

    • Yet I support an exception for his candidacy. His approval rate may be at all time low now, but he was willing to be the voice of dissonance when things looked fishy in Madagascar and no one said anything. And that alone gives him the right to carry those voices further. Rajoelina's delusion of grandeur has been well documented and he might be flawed but he represented the hope of many when things were going astray. Had he not commandeer the coup, maybe his popularity would be higher.

  • A lot has been said about Ravalomanana's mistakes but a shortcoming that has been not enough emphasized is his inability to listen to his critics and dismiss them without hesitation. His contempt for academicians, former foes and contrary point of view is indisputable. He now accuses France of supporting the "coup, and a band of bandits and wanting Madagascar to return as a colony". I am aware of where he comes from on this statement but more than anything, this statement shows me that he is still not admitting his own wrongdoing and suggests that he is not willing to find a consensus with all the parties involved.
    • Still, he is the current elected president and it is clear that he has a legitimate mandate as the legal leader of Madagascar and the support of a substantial part of the population. No elections would make sense without him in Madagascar and that's a fact.

Both politicians have failed their people in many ways. Yet, one cannot forget that they both shoulder enormous pressure and that their (similar) flaws as leaders might be a byproduct of the strain of the job. One wish that they both would be more open to discussion but how many presidents in other places can say that they have the true pulse of their nations ? That is why elections would go a long way towards helping them listen to their constituents, explain what they want for their country and how they plan to do it. Elections are far from the perfect solution but they would show that both sides are willing to listen to the other side's point of view and more importantly to the silent majority.

They lost a lot of credential in the eyes of many. It is time they both earn them back. I hope they both still can, for everyone's sake.


  1. In my Opinion, election is NOT the only way to move forward. Rwanda was plunged into horror, not because of a problem of transparency of the election but hate. Actually, there is hatred between factions in Madagascar. Of course, a transparent election will legitimize a new president but will not cure the wounds nor erase the hatred between Malagasy people.

    In contrary, the success of South Africa was the combination of a transparent election and the wisdom of Nelson Mandela as winner. It is therefore legitimate to questioning the existence of such wisdom from our future leaders? The history taught us that Marc Ravalomanana had no wisdom of the reconciliation neither in 2002 nor in 2006 and today you wrote that « he is still not admitting his own wrongdoing and suggests that he is not willing to find a consensus with all the parties involved. » Will we find this wisdom of forgiveness in the other candidates ? For my part, I believe that reconciliation takes precedence over the election because peace is too precious to be thrown in politicians hands alone.

  2. @Tomavana,

    I hear your point of view as we often discussed before. Here is the core of my argument that I hope we can agree on and elaborate later: what is most needed now ( for reconciliation, peace etc..) is for people to be able to make a living for their own family. For that to happen, they need to have job security. There are different way to get there but it looks like in Madagascar, a dynamic work market depends on foreign investment. It's regrettable but it is the current reality. Investors do not trust the political environment in Madagascar because elections don't mean anything. The next unhappy guy with money can seize power. Investors want to come when they think a legitimate, stable institution is in place. When and how we get there is the urgent question now. I don't believe that the hatred in Madagascar has reached Rwanda's proportion (yet). I also don't see a Mandela in Madagascar, especially not with the current leadership. Elections might not be the be all end all solution but it is the required first step and needs to be done properly if we ever want to get out of this deadend. Moreover, I thought that the solution you proposed involved the creation of federal states therefore elections, or how do we propose we get there ?

  3. @lrakoto

    Creation of federal states, Why ?
    The ethnic issue has always been a Malagasy central concern : traditions, marriage, alliance, election, etc… Plus the economic assets were never distributed equitably to all populations nor across the country. Unfortunately, this legitimate question is regularly exploited by politicians seeking power.

    The capitale Antananarivo concentrates both wealth and power but also is home to every major political crisis, and capital’s people are viewed as a spoiled and capricious child. The whole island has the impression to be « the hostage of Antananarivo. »

    The creation of a federal state is a respond to the profound aspirations of the people of peripheral regions and reduce the risk of deadly ethnic conflict

  4. @lrakoto

    Creation of federal states, How?
    1. national consultation : "Presidential election or federal states"
    2. consensual and transitional government for daily task
    3. national consultation to shape the federal states
    4. when election time comes, starting with local elections as a test
    5. then ending with the presidential election

    In the future if any region or state would counter its own local government, the federal one will firmly resist thanks to the distribution of competence.

    « A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation » quote Clarke, James Freeman so let's act wisely.

  5. @Tomavana,

    I appreciate that you detailed how you think it should be done.
    There is one major issue that your proposal does not address and that I mentioned earlier as a key issue. How do we get people their job back ? The federal state is certainly an option to consider in the future but that in no way help economic activity get back to recovery. No major legitimate investors trust the transitional government because they are no institutional basis for their leadership. This is not about politics and winning an election. This is about getting the economy back on track in a meaningful way and building back the trust of the citizens in their gvt and investors. I still don't see how your proposal addresses that in the short term. We need an administration that can generate work and services rapidly, regardless of names or affiliation. Election is one of the tool to use, not an end. Now if we can get people their job back without a trusted administration, then I am willing to listen to that idea.

  6. @ lrakoto

    Yes people lost their job, I regret that situation.

    Now I do not minimize this installment of the sub-urban population mainly around the capital, if we are talking about democracy they rather represent a small percentage of the population of Madagascar knowing that only 30% of the 20 million Malagasy is urban [src CIA factbook].

    Sorry I was not clear about the core of my argument : what is most needed now is to avoid civil war.

    P.S: in practice, it seems that opponents are preparing for a military confrontation. How to convince them to conduct a fair election?

  7. If that's the way it goes in the near future (& it looks like it just might) and more blood is shed in Madagascar, then they both would have proven to be undeserving of a second chance. If that is the case, I would not even know how we begin to recover from that.

  8. pomegranate9:16 AM

    Tomavana> just a quick comment. I understand that you support the morality of the situation first (forgiveness) but one has to know Ra8 to understand who is he. Ra8, despite the stepping down (a brilliant move that goes right at the heart of his supporters but also, I am convinced, a strategy whispered to his ears by many of his foreign advisors in order to be able to come back in full force) & despite his religious take (a whole fakeout political strategy) , is a ruthless businessman (crushing without compassion or compensation all his fellow competitors: if it is jsut because of the dynamics of what should be a competition, fine but unfortunately the industrial development of Mcar will not go through one single malagasy conglomerate), a ruthless politician (many countries had anti-presidential protests in front of presidential palaces, and when talking about those, they all have leaders & instigators no matter what would be their next aspiration & in many countries such as the US & Britain (yes, i can prove all this!), there were those who climbed/tried to climb the gate of the palace but no gunning down as what happened in Mcar happened: security guards are well-trained to apprehend such situation)who has not made the distinction between simple citizens protesting & real political opponents (at the time of Ra8, if you're not abroad while voicing your frustration publicly as a single person and not rallying a group of people behind you, at the management of the country, be sure hell yeah, that u'll be put out of the way in the most discreet move without the news knowing anything about it!).

  9. pomegranate11:23 AM

    First of all, thank you Lova for putting out a more objective view of this situation. Like you:

    1/ I admired Ra8 for other things but despised him for much more many harms done at the country (he's indeed the most fake nationalist I've ever known).
    2/I admired Andry for his young age and having espoused the noble ideals of John Locke summarized into "not staying put and shut when ther's injustice done to the people"
    but I criticised him fiercely at the way he conducted his strategies: unlike Ra8, Andry TgV did not benefit from the CIA-style tactical training that Ra8 has been trained into, very much needed however to conduct his agenda. His failures (more precisely, lack of experience) are too much in the open unlike Ra8's mistakes (which are 10 times more paramount in destroying the country but very much well-hidden & unknown to the public). As a result, he gave a sense of easy predictability to his opponents. Consequently, his movement has been infiltrated, his actions stumbled, and his images gone worse and worse. Instead of exposing to the world the efforts of his opponents to stumble him by letting them do all the gaming, he played their game by intervening (and not in the right way).

    The pro-Ra8 will not hesitate to ask: who destroys more the country now? Let's be logical & rational.

    1/Yes, it was a Coup d’Etat according to the definition of “Coup d’État” (see Wikipedia) . HOWEVER, given the enormous scale of natural resources dilapidation by the last incumbent, it might as well be called “a necessary Coup d’Etat” (un mal nécessaire). Anything else beyond that cannot be called unconstitutional since it has not been mandated by the Constitution (the whole transitional government thing). Well, killing of protesters are also unconstitutional but no one called Ra8 unconstitutional as because maybe respect of human rights are part of the Preamble and not part of the Art. & Sect. of the Constitution. (I’m really being ironical). So, all ramblings aside, let's just have one simple picture in front of us: TGV succeeded in the most controversial way to be at the helm of the country. Does he have an interest in worsening his image by killing protestors? Does he have an interest in creating more economic & political shambles so that he would be ejected from his seat? Does he have an interest in showing the outside world that his country is in constant smoke? Of course, not. Who has the interest to do all those? Of course, his opponent. Then, we can safely assume "infiltration" at all levels to get to the point where we are. "What the eyes see are the only facts that speak according to ignorant minds"

    2/the country has already been destroyed economically since 2004 (high inflation) and again in 2008 despite the recently alleged 7% GDP drawn by land taxes and thanks to huge tactics of masking things up.(I let the readers make their own discovery of this, which is quite interesting and full-blown destruction if you know how and where to search)

    Then, the “legalists” would hassle me with : why then the Americans DID wait till the end of Bush’s mandate in order to elect their choice even though Bush was very much endangering the lives & interests of Americans abroad through his foreign policies??

    The answer is simple:
    Bush has never killed his fellow Americans (at least that's what Americans believed about 9/11 at the time thanks to media conspiracies & global conspiracies) unlike Ra8 even though his anti-presidential protestors YES, climbed/tried to climb the gate of White house , Bush has not been unconstitutional towards his own country unlike the strings of laws broken by the previous incumbent.

  10. pomegranate12:43 PM

    Lova said:

    "Still, he is the current elected president and it is clear that he has a legitimate mandate as the legal leader of Madagascar and the support of a substantial part of the population. No elections would make sense without him in Madagascar and that's a fact."


    Both Ra8 and ANdry TGV (despite a "justifiable" Coup d'Etat) have committed High Treason if we look under the angle of constitutional doctrine, since High Treason itself has not been defined in any Art. of the malagasy Constitution. As a result, this is enough to lawfully rule out both in the upcoming election. And if I were to challenge the constitutionality of ra8: Let's not forget that he was a self-proclaimed president and his last mandate is backed by a minority as we witnessed a silent majority.

  11. @Pomagranate

    I think the question of the eligibility of Rajoelina or Ravalomanana at the constitutional level is secondary to making sure that all voices are expressed during an elections. I also think that it would be critical that a special emphasis is put on making sure that everyone agrees with the electoral proce and the results, otherwise, it will 2002 all over again. There's got an effort for everyone to accept the verdict and make the verdict as transparent and valid as possible. Otherwise, it's just another waste of time and another dent in the reconciliation process.

  12. Je veux prendre contact avec des journalistes ou des supporters de football de Madagascar.
    S'il vous plaît écrivez-moi dans mon site Journalisme de football international.
    Salutations de Buenos Aires, Argentina...

  13. From London5:03 PM

    From London

    Lova> I think Pomegranate is RIGHT. Hearing the voices of those who have been seriously unconstitutional is the equivalent of acknowledging more unconstitutionality in the near future in the course of Madgascar's politics. There's got to be a form of punishment somehow and the only instance who is eligible to do this is Mcar's Supreme Court. The latter has an URGENT task and imminent prerogative to correct the course of laws & politics in that island. There's got to be a STOP to these strings of lawlessness in Mcar and that includes very much Ra8 for the sake of your country to be fair to both parties. The Supreme Court has to probe and investigate each case according to the context: was the coup d'Etat of TGV acceptable in light of ressources dilapidation by his opponents that was endangering the sovereignty of Mcar, or should Ra8 be justified under the circumstances that prevailed back then in acting the way he did. Thereafter, if the verdict is clear, the party who has not been condemened (hopefully both) can participate to the election. This may take time, but this is the MUST for Mcar at the moment. You will suffer for a while economically, but I think it's a necessary sacrifice. The international community will not even utter such suggestions given their respective interest in your country, but the Malagasy population and espcially the followers of ra8 are seriously mistaken thinking that when Ra8 comes back to power, all would be well. I do not know where do they get this idea from, but please note that the financial embargo Mcar is undergoing at the moment has started since the near-end of the Ra8 regime and not with TGV's government only.

  14. from London5:43 PM

    Just remember that if a democratic country like the US is forced to choose between democracy and sovereignty, it won't think twice and will choose the latter. Just to say that "democracy" is contextual and a weapon as any other political weapons.

  15. @ From London:

    Thanks for weighing in. I really have no argument with your statement that the constitution needs to be upheld over all otherwise it is pointless. You articulated very clearly why it was important. How do we make sure that Constitution remains protect under the peculiar circumstances in Mg is another matter, especially now.
    Your point on democracy vs sovereignty is well-taken, (especially in the US context) but how does one ensure that leaders are kept in check is really my main focus.

  16. Tsantatra

    Disagree with Pomegranate on one point:

    It was not a Coup d'Etat, since another theory could be put forward. Ra8 provoked a high inflation long before the tensions in Jan 2009. The burning of the TIKO companies may have been part of that framework since it was the sole provider of basic goods (sugar, oil, etc). It was then a brilliant tactics to leave the presidential seat (after the big blooper of Feb 07) as a bait (despite the transfer to the Military Directory) for a transition to be marred into difficulties. And eventually for a triumphant comeback.

  17. Anonymous12:06 PM

    Lova> how would you uphold a Constitution deprived of "Constitutionality"?