Madagascar returns to normalcy without Africa

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President Marc Ravalomanana

African recognition not the top priority

President Marc Ravalomanana

afrol News, 11 July - The African Union has repeated its refusal to recognise the presidency of Madagascar's Marc Ravalomanana, meanwhile accepted by the West. Popularly elected President Ravalomanana however is more concerned about returning Madagascar to normalcy after a six-month crisis. 

The Assembly of the newly created African Union (AU) in Durban did not include Malagasy representatives as the outgoing Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had refused to recognise neither Ravalomanana nor ex-President Didier Ratsiraka as the legitimate leader of the island. Since the 21 June OAU decision, Ratsiraka has fled Madagascar and Ravalomanana's presidency has been accepted by all parties In Madagascar and by Western governments - including the US and France. 

Nevertheless, the AU repeated the OAU's decision in Durban. The AU Assembly pointed to "the Constitutive Act of the African Union on the condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes of Government," referring to Madagascar's government. The government being "unconstitutional", the AU further called "Mr. Marc Ravalomanana and other Malagasy parties concerned to organise, as soon as possible, elections." 

The call for fresh presidential elections - Ratsiraka's position throughout the conflict - was however only endorsed after a heated debate in the Assembly. Mauritius, Burkina Faso and Senegal proposed to welcome Madagascar's new government into the AU. Mauritian PM Anerood Jugnauth reminded the Assembly that even Ratsiraka's Arema party had recognised Ravalomanana and that the Malagasy people now was united. 

The call to recognise Ravalomanana was however turned down after heavy attacks on Ravalomanana by the Gabonese and Beninese Presidents. The heated debate continued over an AU call for new Malagasy elections. The word "presidential" was not mentioned in the final communiqué, meaning the call for elections could also be interpreted as legislative elections. Senegal however insisted on only calling for "the organisation of legislative elections" and thus expressed reservations over the final statement. 

These technicalities however where of little concern in Antananarivo, which however had positively noted the Mauritian, Burkinabe and Senegalese support. President Ravalomanana and PM Jacques Sylla are developing cooperation with "the big powers", and development agreements have already been signed with France, the US and Germany. These would be used for reconstruction and in the fight against poverty, which had boomed during the turmoil. 

Further, home affairs are highest on the Antananarivo government's agenda. New governments are being installed in the two last provinces that had been under the control of ex-President Ratsiraka. Reconstruction and reconciliation are top priorities. 

In the northern autonomous province of Antsiranana, preparations are made to inaugurate Jaosoa Pascal as new governor on Saturday. Pascal foresees a return to normalcy in the province as soon as possible. Antsiranana - the centre of Madagascar's main export crop, vanilla - was the scene of the heaviest military clashes in the fight between pro-Ratsiraka and pro-Ravalomanana troops. Tens of people died in the clashes, which lasted over one month. 

From Tamatave (Toamasina) - Ratsiraka's stronghold - Malagasy media report tranquillity. Tamatave city - the island's major port - had surrendered unconditionally to Ravalomanana's troops and daily life had returned to town. Only in the outskirts of the province, there were reports of scattered groups of pro-Ratsiraka militants resisting capitulation. These militants are believed to be suspected of war crimes and are thus escaping charges.

Political reconciliation is generally achieved, according to Antananarivo government sources. Reconciliation had been eased by the Arema party's desertion of Ratsiraka. The party had been rewarded with four ministers in Sylla's government of national reconciliation. 

President Ravalomanana however has made it clear that those responsible of the clashes and war crimes would be facing charges. This would include ex-President Ratsiraka. Several of Ratsiraka's ex-ministers, generals and governors have been detained over the last days, according to the Malagasy daily 'Midi Madagasikara'. This included Tamatave's outgoing Governor, Etienne Hilaire Razafindehibe, who was placed in house arrest awaiting trial. 


Sources: Based on Malagasy govt, press reports and afrol archives 

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