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Madagascar in total chaos
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-25 11:03:50
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The island republic of Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Africa, has returned to national chaos, after the military announced that it was taking over presidential control, two weeks before the presidential ballot on December 3rd.

The dissident General Randrianafidisoa, commonly known as “General Fidy”, made the declaration saying that the military was acting to prevent the “anti-constitutional government” of Marc Ravalomanana from acting with impunity.

At the time of the declaration, Marc Ravalomanana was returning from a private visit in Europe. After making the declaration, Fidy transferred his military base to an establishment near the international airport in the capital city, Antananarivo. At first, things seemed calm, but fierce fighting later broke out between forces loyal to the general and the government republican guards when Ravalomanana's plane approached the airport. As a result, Ravalomanana's plane was forced to divert to Mahajanga, which lays on the west coast of the country. One government soldier was reported killed in the fighting.

Leaflets were later distributed in the capital with inscriptions such as, “The army is taking power so that the country does not slide into civil war” and "Marc Ravalomanana is no longer president of the Republic. The army has taken power under the leadership of General Fidy".

Throughout the weekend, it was not exactly clear who was in control of the country. An Associated Press reporter quoted an official at the American Embassy in Antananarivo as saying that despite the tensions there wasn't yet anything to show that the military was in control.

Marc Ravalomanana did not return to the capital, instead, he moved to the northern part of the country where he has popular support, and addressed a campaign rally on November 20th. He has issued an arrest warrant for the dissident general, but it remains unclear if it is safe enough for him to return to Antananarivo. General Fidy, eager for political power, had applied to stand as presidential candidate, but the constitutional court in October declared him ineligible.

Every president in Madagascar since independence from France in 1960 has been forced out of office through political turmoil, or mass demonstration. The country's first President, Philibert Tsiranana, who came to power in 1960, was forced to resign in the middle of his second mandate in May 1972, following nationwide massive antigovernment riots. General Gabriel Ramanantsoa, who took over, faced unprecedented opposition across the country because of economic hardship and resigned in 1975. He ceded power to Richard Ratsimandrava who was assassinated after just one week in office.

Didier Ratsiraka, who later took power, ruled the country with an iron fist, concentrating all powers to the presidency. In 1991, mass demonstrations across the country forced Ratsiraka to form a transitional government resulting in presidential elections in 1993. This election saw Albert Zafy emerge victorious, but he was later impeached in 1996.

Ratsiraka contested the presidency and won again. During the following poll in 2001, both front-runners, Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana claimed victory, and it took another nationwide protest to send Ratsiraka into exile in France, leaving Ravalomanana to assume executive powers.

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Sand2006-11-25 11:05:55
It sounds like a fascinating country with a marvelous capablity to create interesting names. And none of them seems capable of running a properly functioning government.

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