afrol News, 23 March - Madagascar's coup leader Andry Rajoelina has reacted angrily to the sanctions imposed against his regime by the African Union (AU) and trade partners, threatening to attack the opposition. This is a sign sanctions have an impact, ex-leaders say.
The AU last week imposed sanctions against Madagascar's ruling elite, which came to power in a military coup in March 2009. The AU sanctions follow the decision by the United States to suspend Madagascar's involvement in the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and the European Union has also discussed the possibility of suspending Madagascar from the Cotonou agreement.
The sanctions are a reaction to Mr Rajoelina's failure to implement a power-sharing deal he had previously agreed to. The deal - which would be a first step towards re-establishing constitutional rule on the Great Island - would share government powers between Mr Rajoelina and three ex-President, including Marc Ravalomanana, who was deposed in 2009.
But the AU sanctions caused the current Malagasy leader to react with rage. In a government statement issued on Friday, Mr Rajoelina said sanctions were "humiliating" and announced he would now also impose similar sanctions against the Malagasy opposition.
The three ex-Presidents would from now on be barred from entering Madagascar. Mr Ravalomanana would even be charged with high treason and corruption. Further, the three parties led by them would face restrictions, with local party leaders seeing their assets frozen. Protests organised by the opposition would be banned as they threatened "to destabilise" the country.
According to ex-President Ravalomanana, who is exiled in South Africa, "these attacks are proof that the targeted sanctions implemented against the coup plotters and their direct supporters by the African Union last week are having an impact."
Mr Rajoelina was said to "distract attention away from the importance of honouring the internationally-recognised agreements that all parties had already signed," he added. "Trying to attack people like myself, [ex-Presidents] Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy is ludicrous when we are the ones working with the international community to try to solve the problem," according to Mr Ravalomanana.
The AU sanctions have totally isolated the current Malagasy regime. Madagascar's trade relations are severed or in the process of becoming so. International donors have cut their aid. And, starting with Africa, the regime's assets abroad will be frozen.
The AU sanctions are the first to hit the ruling class directly, and are expected to be followed up by other nations, in particular Europe and the US.
Other sanctions have hit the aid and trade dependent Malagasy economy strongly. Budgets have been drastically reduced due to development aid cuts, and especially the education sector is suffering. Trade has been dramatically reduced as access to US markets is now hindered by customs barriers. The EU is to follow.
As a result, unemployment rates have already risen strongly and poverty is again on the rise. An estimated 230,000 jobs have been lost. World Bank figures released on 1 February showed that last year economic growth in Madagascar collapsed to just 0.6 percent compared with 7 percent in 2008. A zero growth is expected this year.
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