What sparked the seemingly implausible Madagascan scandal …


President of the Republic of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina (center) attends his swearing-in ceremony in Antananarivo, Madagascar, January 19, 2019 (EPA-EFE / Henitsoa Rafalia)

Improving the dire socio-economic situation in the country requires political stability rather than a new attempt to overthrow the government.

First published by The ISS today.

Peter Fabricius, SSI consultant.

It started out “like a bad spy novel” – as one Malagasy commentator put it. In July, an amateur coup plot was hatched by an ex-soldier apparently resembling Walter Mitty to assassinate Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina and several senior leaders around him.

But this bad scenario has now led to the arrest of 21 people, including five generals, two captains and five non-commissioned officers. Four retired national and foreign police, military and five civilians were also arrested. They plotted to assassinate Rajoelina and other leaders and overthrow the government, Attorney General Berthine Razafiarivony Recount a press briefing on Sunday. On July 20, she announced that the first six people had been arrested.

One of the many questions about these confusing developments is why would all of these top soldiers and cops fall for what feels like a B-grade movie plot?

The person who seems to have hatched it is Paul Rafanoharana, a dual Malagasy-French national, a former French gendarmerie captain and currently a consultant for the Singapore-based Benchmark Advantage Group. It is the main shareholder of Madagascar Oil, which is developing the Tsimiroro onshore heavy oil field about 275 km west of the capital Antananarivo.

Local media report that police recovered deleted e-mail messages intended for Madagascar Oil executives from Rafanoharana’s computer. In these, he appealed to the company for at least 10 million euros to finance the coup. Justifying the insurgency, Rafanoharana wrote that Rajoelina’s government had sent Madagascar into a “downward spiral”, citing, among other missteps, the advocacy of a local herbal drink as a remedy for Covid-19.

He told Madagascar Oil that as a return on investment for its financial aid, the new government would remove the bureaucratic hurdles the company faced in securing its concessions. Madagascar Oil has denied any involvement in the plans.

What do we do with it? Local website Madagate said it seemed implausible that Rafanoharana could have been so reckless and amateurish as to solicit funding for a coup plot by email, which is so easy to spot.

A prominent local businessman who requested anonymity said The ISS today, “My first reaction was, ‘This can’t be serious. “” He initially suspected that Rajoelina had invented the plot to prey on his political enemies or distract the public from the difficulties of Covid-19. But when the authorities started arresting high-ranking military personnel, he began to think there could be more than that.

A diplomat in Antananarivo who requested anonymity said The ISS today that the coup plot was not so implausible, given the history of military interference in politics. Rajoelina himself came to power in a coup in 2009 when he overthrew President Marc Ravalomanana with the help of the military.

After resigning under regional pressure, Rajoelina returned to power by defeating his nemesis Ravalomanana in the 2018 elections, which Ravalomanana said were rigged. The diplomat said politics remained volatile, made worse by rumors of an impending cabinet reshuffle.

And Malagasy politics have also aroused considerable interest from many foreign powers. The diplomat noted that these included France, the United States, Russia and China, in part because of its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.

In 2009, Ravalomanana accused France of supporting Rajoelina. After the 2018 elections, the BBC reported that Russia had Free financial support for the election campaigns of at least six presidential candidates, including Rajoelina. The fact that Rafanoharana and another former French soldier and dual Franco-Malagasy national – Philippe François – were arrested in the latest incident has raised some speculation.

But the diplomat believes that local circumstances would be enough to explain an attempted coup if there was one. Madagascar has been bogged down in generally poor governance since 2018. This has worsened the effects of locust invasions, cyclones and another drought in the south that threatens famine there. The Covid-19 pandemic and its lockdowns have also hit the country hard, he said.

According to the World Food Program, chronic malnutrition affects nearly half of all children under five – the 10th The highest rate. In recent decades, the country has experienced stagnant per capita income and an increase in absolute poverty, he says.

“The Great South region has been hit by consecutive droughts during the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 rainy seasons. This has had a disastrous impact on agriculture and forced people to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits or wild leaves, ”he says.

Food security analysis conducted in April found that 1.14 million people in the region are in urgent need of assistance and 14,000 of them are critically food insecure. And the situation could worsen from October to December this year, bringing the number of people in need of assistance to 1.31 million, according to the World Food Program.

“Political instability undermines the institutional capacity of government, economic growth and development efforts. It also reduces people’s access to basic services and their ability to prevent and recover from frequent shocks such as climate-related disasters.

Even so, a coup would hardly be the answer to the country’s ills. “This is not good for the image of Madagascar… the island has been burdened with a negative image for decades with constant political instability, coups, etc.”, said the former ambassador. South African in Madagascar Gert Grobler.

Madagascar clearly needs to change its tired plot. Its still fragile political foundations must be consolidated so that the massive socio-economic problems of the country can be tackled with determination and vigor. DM

Peter Fabricius, SSI consultant.


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