British billionaire Richard Branson, owner and founder of Virgin Group, visited Madagascar last week to attend the first tourism fair organized by the National Tourism Office in Madagascar (ONTM), and to also work on a project to protect endangered lemurs. Although Branson enjoyed his time in the country, and even took an opportunity to play golf, he also had something else in mind. Branson wanted to open an air route between London and Antananarivo, and seek a lodge on the Big Island to come on Holiday.
To discuss these ambitious plans, Branson hoped to meet with Prime Minister Omer Beriziky during his stay. Before returning to London, Branson invited Beriziky to dinner; however, the Madagascan Prime Minister declined the invitation because he had planned a trip to Toamasina on June 9 to celebrate the 7th annual National Day of Nutrition (JNN), followed by a visit to Sambava on June 11 to meet with vanilla producers.
Beriziky’s priority to tour the provinces over meeting with Branson tells us a lot about his intentions to run in the upcoming presidential election, especially if Transition President Andry Rajoelina and his rival, former President Marc Ravalomanana, are prevented from running.
Anosy, June 12, 2012 — At a press briefing, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierrot Rajaonarivelo (pictured on the left), gave journalists the following statement:
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar shall inform the public that the heads of state and government of the South African Development Community (SADC) met in a special session in Luanda (Republic of Angola) on June 1, 2012.
Addressing the Malagasy question, the Summit mandated the mediator of the SADC and Troika of the organization to facilitate the dialogue and urgently convene a meeting between Mr. Andry Rajoelina, President of the Transition, and Mr. Marc Ravalomanana, former President of the Republic. This meeting will ensure full implementation of the roadmap and create a climate conducive to holding elections, free and fair.
Taking note of this proposal from the SADC summit, the Government of the National Union had no objection to issuing such a meeting in a third country, after June 26, 2012. It is in fact desirable that everyone can prepare for this national holiday with some peace of mind.
During an SADC Summit meeting earlier this month, the 15 member countries agreed on the essence of facilitating a meeting between Madagascar’s transition President Andry Rajoelina and former President Marc Ravalomanana. Despite a three-year feud since the assumption of Rajoelina’s presidency, both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana expressed cooperation by putting their rivalries to rest .
At the 2012 International Tourism Fair of Madagascar, held on the day following the Summit, Rajoelina expressed his position on meeting with Ravalomanana, stating: “there is no trouble meeting if this meeting will bring peace and stability in the country.” With his country in mind, Rajoelina suggests his willingness to meet with Ravalomanana for a constructive discussion.
Ravalomanana, who is currently exiled in South Africa, indicated that he is “ready to meet Rajoelina at any time, anywhere, to reach agreement on outstanding issues.”
With both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana cooperating with the SADC’s efforts towards reconciliation, the two may soon see each other face to face for the first time in years. What will transpire at their meeting remains an interesting question. Will Rajoelina and Ravalomanana reach an agreement?
The 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.
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.
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).
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.