Transition to Stability in Mali

mali French troops mobilizing across Mali

Timbuktu, 03/21/2013 – Yesterday, it was reported that another French soldier has died in the ongoing conflict in Mali. A suicide bomber strapped a vest of explosives to himself near a French military checkpoint in Timbuktu and, upon detonation of his device, killed one French soldier. This marks the fifth death of a French soldier since their direct involvement began on January 10th of this year, and will certainly give France further motivation to end the conflict in Mali as soon as possible.

The struggle began with a military coup that dislodged the democratic leadership that had controlled the country. The military claimed that they were not being supplied with enough equipment and arms to combat the Tuareg rebels. Since Mali gained its independence in 1960, the Tuareg have staged many rebellions in an attempt to create their own country called Azawad, in northern Mali. Ironically, when the military took control of the government, they did not have the power structure to continue the governance of the country, creating a power vacuum that the Tuareg quickly took advantage of. With the Malian military occupied with the south and keeping power there, the Tuareg finally seized control of many northern cities. However, being that their fighting force was not incredibly strong, they were taken out of power by al-Qaeda linked radical Islamist groups. Once these groups had established themselves in northern Mali, they governed the area with a very strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) that has caused many humanitarian inquiries. Among the new restrictions were bans on music, drinking, and smoking. They had also begun to destroy historical landmarks, calling them idolatrous due to their strict interpretation of the Qur’an, creating outrage in many cultural organizations worldwide. Since the cities then came under direct rule of radical militants, floggings, public executions, public stoning,and amputations had become commonplace. They also cut off access to utilities in many of the cities that they occupied, compounding the humanitarian disaster.

International Response

This succession of events led to the involvement of the international community and France in particular. The day after the military had declared control of the country, France sent a military force into the region that consisted of 2,150 troops. The United States supplied intelligence, air support, and monetary assistance, as the threat of a new haven for al-Qaeda is in direct conflict with their foreign policy. Many other countries combined including China, India, Senegal, and many others combined to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, with the EU contributing around 67 million euros.

mali Malians in Timbuktu before the civil war

The mission to re-establish a stable government to all of Mali has been incredibly successful thus far, mainly due to the French military presence in the region. They successfully took back control of Timbuktu, Gao, and finally Kidal, all of which were massive strongholds for these radical Islamist militants, and thus sites of immense humanitarian abuses. Kidal was the last major city to be controlled by the militants, and was a huge step for the French initiative.

Potential U.N. Involvement Moving Forward

Marc Fonbaustier
Herve Ladsous (left) with Marc Fonbaustier (right)

Now that the bulk of the conflict is over, France looks to the UN to take over with the peacekeeping force that had been suggested earlier in the conflict once it was a more stable situation. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous (pictured above with French diplomat Marc Fonbaustier) had said that the UN would deploy a peacekeeping force “at the appropriate time.” He continued “I think that the Security Council will be looking at a resolution in the next two or three weeks and then we will move ahead for full deployment.” The force (expected to number around 6,000 members) is expected to be in place well before the July 31st elections as the country looks to restore the democracy that had stood since 1992. Some Malians, however, are uneasy about the force, fearing that it will create a divide between the north and south like Sudan. The international community hopes that they will accept the resolution so that Mali does not fall into chaos like many other African countries have when the French soldiers inevitably leave, which may be sooner rather than later given the latest death of one of their own and the stir that it has caused.


Isabel Dos Santos is richest woman in Africa

Isabel Dos SantosAngola’s president Dos Santos is famous for being the president of his country for over 30 years. He is also famous for the wealth he has developed over the years by being a board member of all the major companies of his country, mainly those that handle the country’s natural resources such as petrolium and diamonds. Now president Dos Santos will be also knownn to be the father of Africa’s richest woman, Isabel Dos Santos.

Born on April 1st, 1973, 40-year-old Isabel Dos Santos has just been named by Forbes Africa’s richest woman. She started building up her wealth thanks to her dad, who gave her stakes in the country’s main public companies. Then one day, she started building her own business, buying shares in portuguese companies. Her husband, Sindika Dokolo, is also the son of a wealthy man who founded his own bank.

While Forbes doesn’t give out the exact amount of Isabel Dos Santos’ wealth, it lists the companies in which the “princess” of Angola bought shares:

  • ZON Multimedia, Portugal largest cable TV provider, 28,8%
  • Banco BPI, Portugal largest traded banks, 25%
  • Unitel, Angola’s largest mobile network, 25%

Forbes also mentions that the Dos Santos family’s wealth comes from the obscure business of oil in Angola. Since the end of Angola’s civil war, the price of angolan oil has boosted, and it has been reported that billions of dollars in profits from oil have disappeared when it transitted through the public administration.

Teachers’ strike in Madagascar still on!

Teacher strike | Madagascar PoliticsThe teachers of Madagascar have been on a strike for a week now, asking the high transitional authority to spend more money on public education to raise teachers’ salaries. The SEMPAMA – the teachers’ labor union handling the strike – has asked that the transitional government unlocks a 250 billion ariary budget ($120m) to ameliorate the remuneration of the teaching workforce.

Up until the beginning of this week, Andry Rajoelina‘s response to the strikers’ claim was unsatisfying for the demanding crowd: “freedom shouldn’t be used at the expense of the country’s future“. Nice phrase, but wrong move. The strikes kept running, expressing the people’s frustration regarding the lack of money that is allocated to public education.

On Tuesday, Claude Raharovoatra, president of the SEMPAMA, met with Andry Rajoelina to figure a way out of this crisis. Following the meeting, the president of the transition declared: “Madagascar’s regular financing and investment activities are not back to normal. Giving satisfaction to the claims of the union will be painful“.

After further considerations, the president of the transition raised the intial 20 billion ariary education budget to 25 billion ariary. The raise was not enough for the teachers, who decided to keep on striking until the president provides an adequate solution to the financially broken public education system. Even though Rajoelina argues that striking in times of a crisis is foul play, the teachers are determined to keep marching on until their claims are fulfilled.

The strike movement has also been encouraged by Ravalomanana’s opposition party, whose main motivation is to destabilize the transitional government and bring former president Ravalomanana back (from South Africa).

Source: Teacher Solidarity

Pro-Ravalomanana congressmen suspend their activity until further notice

Mamy Rakotoarivelo

Mamy Rakotoarivelo is calling all members of the Ravalomanana party to suspend their government activities until the international community irons out what happened in the past few days.

Last Saturday, a pro-Ravalomanana march turned into an agitated showdown when the crowd started to flirt with security measures, resulting in the military pepper-spraying the crowd to break the mob down. Mamy Rakotoarivelo, president of the Congress of Madagascar, who was in the crowd on Saturday, was unfortunately hit by the tear gas. He is also summoned to the criminal trial court for his involvment in the mob. So yesterday, Mamy Rakotoarivelo stepped his foot down, declaring that the pro-Ravalomanana congressmen (57 out of 365) will be on hold until higher authorities share their views of the HTA’s management of the actual situation.

The decision came straight from exiled former president Marc Ravalomanana: “Government officals have been the target of tear gas… Cease all involvment in the transitional governement while waiting for the SADC’s standpoint”. Mamy Rakotoarivelo also denounces th criminal court’s summons to appear, as it is in direct violation with the SADC’s roadmap which requires that all politically-related arrests must be suspended.

The pro-Ravalomanana party is coming hard on the transitional government, trying everything it can to bring the former president back. It should be mentioned that, 3 years ago, when anti-Ravalomanana protesters marched on the Democracy plaza and infringed security measures, dozens were killed by the bullets of the army: Compared to this, tear gas is a much smoother and mellow way to break up a crowd.

Source: Madonline

The Troika to evaluate Madagascar’s steps of transition

Gert Grobler, the South African Ambassador of Madagascar

The Troika, a segment of the SADC, will measure the steps for the implementation of the Roadmap and is expected to vote on the differences between the signatory entities. Gert Grobler, the South African Ambassador or Madagascar, stated, “All steps taken will be reviewed, not just amnesty,” responding indirectly the the Ravalomanana dispute. The task of the Troika is to mediate disagreements within the regime on the application of provisions of the document intended to govern the transition. The meeting will also set the tone of the Government Council on April 24th to discuss the provisions of the Roadmap, including whether or not the “unconditional” return of political exiles will be allowed. There is discrepency between the parties on whether or not this is necessary. “We realized what he had to be done. All institutions are set up, with the exception of the Committee for the Malagasy fampihavanana and Special Electoral Court,” added Rakotomavo Lanto, vice president of the CST and president of the Tanora Malagasy Vonona party (TGV).

Source: All Africa

Technical Failure of Air Madagascar’s newly acquired Airbus340

Air Madagascar’s newly acquired Airbus340 experienced technical difficulties before its first scheduled flight on April 17th. Fortunately, the failure was quickly detected, repaired and ready for flight 24 hours later. The General Director of Air Madagascar, Jean François Richard, explained,

“It was a rare but common fault. The part that was faulty does not exist in Madagascar, so it was had to be brought from Madagascar… the A340-300 is ready to resume operations.”

First passengers aboard the Airbus340

Video of the inaugural ceremony on April 12, 2012

Source: Madagascar Tribune

The Ravalomanana party forms an opposition alliance

Pierrot Botozaza, spokesperson of the new opposition alliance

The Ravalomanana party tries to form a coalition within the government as an opposition to Andry Rajoelina, the President of the Transition. Ministers of the Ravalomanana side, those from the Zafy party and those from the Madagasikara Otronin ‘ny Malagasy (Monima) approach to address the regimen’s allies. Pierrot Botozaza, Deputy Prime Minister of the economy and industry, became the spokesperson for the 3 political parties at the council of ministers held at Lavoloha yesterday. He demanded for the reinstatement of Joseph Randriamiarisoa, the fired Minister of environment and forests, and insisted on the implementation of Article 20 of the Roadmap referring to the return of political exiles without condition.

The alliance became obsolete after the singing of the Roadmap; Ratsiraka refusing to sign it and statement from Ambert Zafy lambasting the government caused the fall out. This time, ministers from the Zafy, the ravalomanana party and the party of former Prime Minister Monja Roidenfo seek to unite and form an alliance one again. The disorganized allegiance has already made an impact at the cabinet meeting by causing a ruckus. Andry Rajoelina reminded them of his prerogative to dismiss a member of the government and demanded a mutual respect within the executive committee.

Source: L’Express Madagascar