“It’s absurd. What happened to us? Where are our values? Can’t we talk to one another instead of killing.”(1)
“Idiots! You pushed us into a situation from where there is no return. Do you think the youth that were at the barricades will be quiet in the future? Do you think they will care about voting next time? Why should they?” (1)
As reported in the Pandora’s Box (1), these words evidenced the feelings and concerns of Malagasy youth two days before the country was to celebrate its 49th independence anniversary, 26 June 2009. A day that is to make history as the democratically-elected president Marc Ravalomanana was not to preside over the ceremony for he is being exiled in South Africa after the “coup-style” change of leadership of 17, March 2009.
The Malagasy political crisis that is dramatically affecting the country began in December 2008 when VIVA - a TV channel owned by Andry Rajoelina(2) – was ordered to stop broadcasting by the Malagasy authorities. Such decision was naturally interpreted as a blatant break away from fundamental liberties. “Non-violence” demos ensued. Protesters called for the respect of the constitutional rights of the liberty of expression. On17 March 2009, Rajoelina and his backers eventually rallied to oust Marc Ravalomanana and took power by force as witnessed by USA ambassador, Niels Marquardt(3).
26 June 2009: about to make history
Now that power has shifted hands, the remaining and “staged” victims of the political unrest are “encore” the Malagasy people in general and the inhabitants of Antananarivo, the capital city, in particular. Street demonstrators for the return of Ravalomanana are repeatedly met with tear gas and dispersed unhurt, if lucky, by shooting in the air. On Independence Day, opposition leaders who exhorted their followers to demand the return of legitimacy were framed away. The wife of Didier Ravoahangison – director of Radio Fahazavana had been in custody to force her husband to surrender to the HAT’*s forces of “law and order”(4). And the following days were marked by a wave of official warnings against opposition voices.
For the moral credentials of the HAT and “its” army (5) seem to be sinking deeper into a mire of physical harassment, arbitrary arrest, pillage and terror, Malagasy young are having hard time “to distinguish what is correct and what is incorrect; what is true and what is false, as traditional grounding values have been radically altered by recent events”(1)
On Independence Day, to the bewilderment of the capital city, commanding officers Charles and Lylison – known for their acts of cruelty to the HAT’s opposition activists – were the main cast of the celebration parade as heads of the newly founded army corps F.I.S.(6). In truly democracy-minded nations these officers would have been duly demoted and court-martialed. Instead, under the HAT’s regime, they have gained promotion.
Upon realizing such “promotion”, said one young “stray” Malagasy “Life on the street has always been a life of misery; now that we can steal without anyone saying anything, it’s better.”(1)
Now that the “Sacred Knot” (fihavanana) has been trashed down, “ The Malagasy people have become aggressive and all fraternity has gone, along with all the development efforts” and “The youth’s perception of the crisis pointed to a weakening of the law enforcement and justice structure, opening the door to even greater dangers: easy available drugs, trafficking of children, prostitution, child abuse and the creation of criminal youth gangs, are all finding fertile ground in this volatile situation.” (1)
Looming economic catastrophe
In addition, the Great Island seems to be sailing down fast into economic disaster. Within a few months, in the aftermath of the “17-March political coup”, Rajoelina’s HAT were able to keep the prices of basic alimental food (BAF) down by “helping themselves” with president Ravalomanana’s Tiko (8). Once Tiko’s stocks had run out, BAF prices (flour, rice, salad oil…) started soaring . A kilo of flour rocketed from Ariary** (Ar.) 1,080 to Ar.2000.
The Ariary used to stand at Ar. 2400 for 1 Euro in March 2009. In July, one Euro is worth Ar.2730. The country’s growth rate slumped from +7% down to – 0.2% between 2008 and mid-2009. The“coup” and the suspension of international economic agreements have also caused the closing down of all the free zone plants. The closure has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of regular jobs, has thrown most of the newly unemployed back to the streets to eke out for a most meager living by joining in the “parallel” and “informal” business of street vendors. Tourism is the other victim of the ongoing political unrest. Despite the new regime optimistic forecast of about 150,000 tourists this year, it is highly likely that this prevision will turn out wrong as specialists reckon on a dramatic low number far below the 378,000 vacationers who came in 2008.
The other devastating impact of the political crisis is the psychological repercussion amid Malagasy youth as voiced by Bruno Maes “It is striking how violence has altered their perceptions, and how much anger and frustration this (crisis) has created.”(8)
Actually, when the moral values which hold together the fabric of the Malagasy society - i.e. respect to the elders (Ray aman-dreny) who stand for role models – vanish it does strike hard into the minds of the younger generation. Odon Razanakolona, archbishop of Antananarivo and appointed chief negotiator by the Federation of the Malagasy Churches in the standoff between President Ravalomanana - referred to as “Dad” by his supporters - and Rajoelina, has been proved instrumental in the overthrow of the legitimate government. Norbert Ratsirahonana, a reputed Professor of Law and former member of the “Haute Cour Constiturionnelle”*** has been pushing and shopping around to make the HAT de facto government of the Malagasy Nation. To the younger generation who used to hold the two public figures in high esteem for spiritual and political guidance, their attitudes hurt profoundly: Razanakolona and Ratsirahonana have overlooked the interest of the Nation for their personal ambitions.
Said Maes “The results are worrying because, in addition to increased violence, youth express a growing division within communities and among peers. Previous experience has shown that violence breeds violence and if we do not act now, it might be too late.”(9)
Any “future” governing bodies of the Malagasy Nation might as well take heed at what is reported the IRIN’s survey “The future of reconciliation in Madagascar may hinge on its youth, but their involvement in months of political violence and continued exposure to turmoil has left them embittered and particularly vulnerable.”(10)
(1)One interviewee in Pandora’s Box: Youth at a crossroads (compiled by the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, a group of international and local NGOs. June, 23, 2009
The interviewee is one of the 12,800 adolescent respondents from Analamanga, central region around Antananarivo. The survey was conducted to evidence the impact of the recent political demonstrations that had left hundreds dead and thousand injured (re:IRIN)
(2) Former mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar capital city. Now head of the HAT
(3) re: “Ce n’est pas encore le mot de la fin”
(4) Three other opposition leaders were arrested with no warrant. One of them, Yves Aimé Rakotoarison, a former “deputé” of Fort-Dauphin ( a southern town of Madagascar)
HAT* (Haute Autorité de Transition): Andry Rajoelina’s transitional government
(5) a pocketful of about 200 soldiers from the military barrack of the CAPSAT (Corps des personnels et des services administratifs et techniques)
(6)FIS : Force d’Intervention Spéciale
(7)Tiko: brand name of Marc Ravalomanana’s Agribusiness (the country supplier of BAF). All Tiko’s business premises have been pillaged and destroyed by fire.
(8) Bruno Maes is UNICEF’s Madagascar Representative as explained by the IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network)
Ariary**: Madagascar currency
***The Supreme Court of Madagascar
(9) above cited
(10) Opening paragraph of the IRIN survey
Photo 1 : HAT’ supporters en route for the Presidential Palace. February, 07, 2009
Photo 2 : Supporters of President Marc Ravalomanana. March, 23, 2009.
Alain Rajaonarivony / Richard Randriambololona
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