A Cosmetic End to Madagascar’s Crisis?

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Africa Report N°218


Madagascar is on the cusp of exiting a five-year political crisis compounded by economic disorder and international isolation. Presidential elections in late 2013 were endorsed as credible following the victory of Hery Rajaonarimampianina. The return to democracy paves the way for renewed international support. However, division entrenched by former President Marc Ravalomanana’s exile has polarised the country. The coup regime of Andry Rajoelina was characterised by socio-economic malaise, rampant corruption, institutional decay and the breakdown in the rule of law. The political system, which is the primary obstacle to sustained recovery, needs much more than a cosmetic makeover; fundamental reform is necessary. The African Union, Southern African Development Community and International Support Group for Madagascar must support Rajaonarimampianina’s efforts to balance political interests in a marked departure from the traditional winner-take-all approach; reform and strengthening of key democratic institutions; and reform and professionalisation of the security sector.

The elections were a major step forward, but they did nothing to resolve the underlying causes and impact of the 2009 coup. Laws and institutions matter less than personal relationships and zero-sum politics. The malleability of political alliances again came to the fore over the formation of the new government and the battle over control of the National Assembly, as independent parliamentarians gravitated toward whichever political bloc seemed closest to forming a dominant coalition. The military remains outside civilian control in one of the world’s most coup-prone countries. The political chasm between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina and their respective movements, which started the crisis, has not been bridged. Old divides remain, but are now surpassed and complicated by new mutating rivalries generated by the 2013 elections, both between political movements and within them.

Nonetheless, Madagascar is being reincorporated into the international fold, led by the African Union, which lifted its suspension shortly after the president’s inauguration in January 2014. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have already reestablished ties, while others (notably the European Union and U.S.) have indicated that they will resume direct development assistance when a government is in place – a development that is imminent following the appointment of a new prime minister, Kolo Roger, on 11 April and the formation of a new administration on 18 April. The Southern African Development Community, which has been instrumental in chaperoning the political negotiations leading to elections, closed its liaison office in Antananarivo at the end of April, but should maintain an active presence.

Further development assistance is expected, but there is a risk that long-term political challenges will be swept aside by seemingly more pressing development concerns. Doing so would be a grave error, as structural and institutional weaknesses are the root cause of underdevelopment and cyclical political crises. A long-term development strategy that incorporates reconciliation and reform, as well as an emphasis on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, should be adopted. A post-election dispute in late 2001 and early 2002 almost triggered a civil war, and there have since been frequent military interventions in politics, including two failed coup attempts since the army brought Rajoelina to power in 2009. It would be a mistake to assume that the current government has sufficient foundations for lasting peace and stability or that elections ended the country’s fragility.

President Rajaonarimampianina faces immense challenges: establishing an inclusive government he can work with to reform the political system and culture; building institutional integrity; fostering national reconciliation; averting political misuse of the security services by addressing realistic professional demands; resuscitating development and service delivery; addressing a public health crisis (both in terms of food security and disease outbreaks); and restoring government control in the south, which is rife with bandits and weapons. Unless there is a fundamental transformation that addresses Madagascar’s structural challenges, the current period will be little more than the calm before the next inevitable storm.


To promote reconciliation

To Madagascar’s government and political leadership:

1.- Promote a platform of shared values and goals, and an approach to cooperative governance that embraces political inclusiveness, and legislative and institutional reform; and explain, endorse and officially support the concept of a “loyal opposition”.

2.- Extend the mandate of Madagascar’s Reconciliation Council (FFM) and include the Madagascar Council of Churches (FFKM), and draw up a clear program of action covering national, regional and local spheres that should be signed by political parties, movements and individuals.

3.- Review security concerns relating to the return of former President Marc Ravalomanana and reconsider urgently his exclusion from the current amnesty process.

4.- Publicise and disseminate widely government priorities and commitments to reconciliation so as to promote civil society participation.

To the International Support Group – Madagascar, the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC):

5.- Provide continued and expanded support for the reconciliation process.

To tackle corruption and build institutional integrity

To Madagascar’s government:

6.- Demonstrate a clear commitment to promoting the rule of law, tackling corruption and building the capacities of, and trust in, state institutions.

7.- Support the strengthening of BIANCO, the anti-corruption agency, to investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases.

8.- Invest in domestic capacities and re-engage with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative to promote accountability in key resource industries.

To the International Support Group – Madagascar, AU and SADC:

9.- Support government efforts to tackle corruption and build institutional integrity.

10.- Monitor closely adherence to rule of law and democratic practices.

To decouple the security sector from politics

To Madagascar’s government:

11.- Forbid military officers from serving in a political or civilian administrative capacity, and replace military regional governors appointed by former transitional President Rajoelina with civilians.

12.- Ensure career advancement for military officers is shielded from political manipulation and in line with international best practices.

13.- Facilitate cohesion and professionalism within the security sector, both military and gendarmerie, including through connections to AU and SADC security sector initiatives.

To Madagascar’s security service chiefs:

14.- Declare publicly and unequivocally their commitment and loyalty to the constitution and the principle of civilian oversight over the military.

To the international community, in particular the AU and SADC:

15.- Apply firm and unified pressure on these fronts.

Johannesburg/Brussels, 19 May 2014