Ousted Madagascar president to return?

As revolutions across the Arab World are sending autocrats fleeing for exile, at least one ousted president — far away from Cairo and Tunis — claims he will soon return home: to Madagascar. Marc Ravalomanana, who was booted from office in a 2009 coup, vowed today that he would return on Feb. 19, leaving his ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

As revolutions across the Arab World are sending autocrats fleeing for exile, at least one ousted president -- far away from Cairo and Tunis -- claims he will soon return home: to Madagascar. Marc Ravalomanana, who was booted from office in a 2009 coup, vowed today that he would return on Feb. 19, leaving his exile in South Africa.

It's not clear what exactly Ravalomanana (shown sporting his plane tickets above) is hoping to achieve by showing up. Not least because he's likely to be arrested as soon as his plane lands; the current regime, headed by coup-instigator Andry Rajoelina, lobbed massive charges against him for corruption and convicted him in absentia. (To jog your memory: Ravalomanana's unseating was a particularly ugly one; the army surrounded the presidential palace and sent him fleeing. After weeks of stand off, he finally resigned, handing power over to the fiery ex-disc jockey who remains president to this day.)

That Ravalomanana wants to return is a potent reminder that this crisis was never actually solved. The African Union suspended Madagascar's membership in protest of the coup. But then once it looked like an irreversible development, everyone started to look the other way. There was a sigh of collective resignation. Time to just to put up with Rajoelina, and then expect elections to be held eventually. 

As revolutions across the Arab World are sending autocrats fleeing for exile, at least one ousted president — far away from Cairo and Tunis — claims he will soon return home: to Madagascar. Marc Ravalomanana, who was booted from office in a 2009 coup, vowed today that he would return on Feb. 19, leaving his exile in South Africa.

It’s not clear what exactly Ravalomanana (shown sporting his plane tickets above) is hoping to achieve by showing up. Not least because he’s likely to be arrested as soon as his plane lands; the current regime, headed by coup-instigator Andry Rajoelina, lobbed massive charges against him for corruption and convicted him in absentia. (To jog your memory: Ravalomanana’s unseating was a particularly ugly one; the army surrounded the presidential palace and sent him fleeing. After weeks of stand off, he finally resigned, handing power over to the fiery ex-disc jockey who remains president to this day.)

That Ravalomanana wants to return is a potent reminder that this crisis was never actually solved. The African Union suspended Madagascar’s membership in protest of the coup. But then once it looked like an irreversible development, everyone started to look the other way. There was a sigh of collective resignation. Time to just to put up with Rajoelina, and then expect elections to be held eventually. 

But now, elections are supposed to be held — later this year. And African Union mediators have had trouble convincing the current regime to get on board with any transition plan. Having lost the momentum at the beginning of the crisis, outsiders are finding themselves helpless to try and pull strings toward democracy now. 

Maybe all this would be a shruggable matter — if it weren’t for the example it sets at a time when African countries need some better ones when it comes to democratic transition. A record number of African countries will hold presidential elections this year — including Uganda tomorrow, then Chad, Nigeria, Djibouti, and Niger, to name just a few. None of those countries’ leaders is apt to step down without a fuss (and several will make sure that election outcomes are sufficiently fixed before hand.) Turning the other way on little Madagascar makes that all the more likely.

 

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

Tag: Africa

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