Madagascar's Back on Track - Destination Unknown
Madagascar's Back on Track - Destination Unknown
Report 156 / Africa 3 minutes

Madagascar: Ending the Crisis

Madagascar has been in crisis since the bloody upheavals in early 2009. Several rounds of mediation under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and others have not unlocked the stalemate.


Madagascar has been in crisis since the bloody upheavals in early 2009. Several rounds of mediation under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and others have not unlocked the stalemate. Despite the signing of several documents, negotiations have stalled, mainly due to the refusal of the Rajoelina government to implement the power sharing agreed in Maputo in August. While violence has been kept at bay since the Rajoelina regime took power in March 2009, its legitimacy is questioned both internally and externally, and a dire economic environment weighs heavily on an already impoverished population. To avoid further escalation, the mediation should cease trying to broker a new transitional power-sharing deal but instead aim for agreement on the consensual writing of a constitution and the organisation of early elections under international supervision.

From January to March 2009, Andry Rajoelina, the then mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, assembled several tens of thousands in the streets demanding the resignation of Marc Ravalomanana’s government.  He forged an alliance of convenience with the political opposition and parts of civil society, leading to mass rallies which degenerated into violent riots in which at least 70 people died.  Rajoelina organised a parallel government – the “High Authority of the Transition” (HAT) -- on 7 February and asked his supporters to take the presidential palace. Thirty people died as the security forces opened fire on the crowd.

Mediation attempts by the churches and the UN failed because both protagonists played a game of political brinkmanship. Demonstrations continued, coupled with targeted arrests and repression by the security forces, until a military camp mutinied and allied itself with Rajoelina. As the tide turned, Ravalomanana yielded power on 17 March 2009 to a military directorate of three senior generals, who immediately transferred their authority to Rajoelina.  The AU and others condemned this unconstitutional take-over of the government.

Power-sharing agreements signed in Maputo in August and Addis Ababa in November offered opportunities to promote a consensual transition by uniting in one government the four political movements represented by Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and two former presidents, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy. But even though he signed, Rajoelina and his entourage have blocked implementation of the accords, reserved all senior positions in the transitional authority for themselves and threatened to organise elections unilaterally.  

Similarly, the lack of political will to compromise of the other protagonists, who are more concerned about securing the spoils of power than finding a solution in the national interest, has made genuine power sharing virtually impossible.  This attitude of the political elite has been at the root of the other political crises (1972, 1991 and 2002) that have shaken Madagascar since independence. Its members have each time maintained their power networks, making eventual recurrence inevitable.

To break this cycle and to end the crisis, a new constitution and new elections are the only realistic option. Madagascar needs to restore legitimate institutions and then launch administrative reforms. The mediation team’s priority, therefore, should be the negotiation of an agreement between the four political movements that allows rapid drafting of a new constitution, a referendum on that document, free and fair elections and clarification of the terms of amnesty agreed in Maputo. 

The organisation of elections cannot be turned over solely to the HAT.  The four movements should agree that the constitutional referendum and the elections will be organised and supervised by a joint AU/UN mission. During the transition period, the activities of the HAT should be reduced to that of a caretaker government. Any member of the HAT who wishes to stand in the elections should first resign, as was agreed in Maputo. Andry Rajoelina would be entitled to stay in office and, as negotiated in Maputo, would be able to contest the elections. This would meet the wishes of both the HAT, which insists on rapid organisation of elections, and of the other three movements, which want impartial control of the electoral process. It would also make bickering over ministerial posts redundant and avoid an over-long transition.

For this solution to work, the AU and UN should appoint a joint envoy mandated to supervise the drafting of a new constitution and organisation of a constitutional referendum and general elections. An AU/UN police mission should be formed and put under the envoy’s responsibility, charged to work closely with the Malagasy security forces to secure the electoral process.  The international community, already represented in a contact group, needs to remain engaged, and its guarantor role should be enshrined in the political accord.

Nairobi/Brussels, 18 March 2010

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