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Live tonight - Madagascar with Stephen Ellis

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Tonight we discuss the roots of the situation in Madagascar and ask what the future holds for this troubled island nation? Joining us will be Stephen Ellis, an expert on the country and author of Madagascar: A short history and Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society. As usual, if you can't make it to the Club in person, please come and join us online. We'll be streaming the event on the Frontline Club Events page, in the video pane above and on the Frontline Club live broadcast channel. We start at 7pm GMT/11am PST tonight Mon 27 April.

Widespread refusal to recognise Andry Rajoelina as President of Madagascar and continued support for ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana means the island is likely to remain in turmoil for weeks to come.

The army-backed takeover, which has been condemned as a coup by foreign powers including the United States and the African Union and the Southern African Development Community is not only a blow to the AU but also likely to have reverberations far beyond Madagascar.

Following weeks violence in which more than a hundred people were killed the tourism industry has been crippled and foreign mining and oil investors scared off.
Support for ex-president Marc Ravalonanana is dividing the country’s population and more violence may be on the horizon. link


David Johnstone | April 27, 2009 6:56 PM

I have spent 12 of the last 24 months living with my wife, a Tandroy, & our baby in the family compound in Fort Dauphin (where Rio Tinto have their mine) with all her extended family. I speak fluent French, and get by in Malgache. I therefore feel I can usefully coment. Most of the coverage I have read ignores some important but uncomfortable facts. 1) Though not imeadiately apparent to most 'vazaha' visitors, Madagascar is a divided society. It is NOT an island where the common ancestors all came from Asia & turn their dead, as often presented. In fact those of Asiatic descent represent less than 10% of the population (the Merina). Both would be presidents are from this over-privileged group. 'Cousins' to the imerina, many of whom have some degree of metisage, are the other groups from the 'hautes terres', particularly the Betsileo who share Asiatic ancestry but have intermarried more with those of predominantly African extractioin living, like my wife & her people, along the coast ('cotiers'). Those of African descent (like my wife) are effectively excluded from any share in the power cake. Moreover development and all other opportunities, including (and particularly) meaningful employment - and political power - have always favoured those from the Hautes Terres. The ex pat French, usually conveniently 'dual nationals' still control large swathes of the economy and actively discriminate in favour of the Merina & (to a lesser extent) Betsileo. 2) Neither 'president' was elected in any kind of election which a fair minded person could describe as 'free and fair'. Both have used their enormous wealth, the sources of much of which one must question in such a poor country (no matter what the figleaf!), to 'rent-a-riot' in the capital, Tana, in order to put themselves in power. They really represent nobody but their own Tana based pressure groups, who under the unofficial patronage system, stand to skim off the cream from the Malagasy economy if their guy gets up as 'Filoha'! Due to decades during which political activity was risky (to say the least), there are NO political parties representing the interests of the common man in the Western democratic sense. We the international community should therefore be a) insisting on truly neutral observers at any election or referendum. b) We should be nurturing NEW and real political parties representing individually, collectively or (preferably) both all the 18 different ethnic groups on the island so that any future government truly represents ALL Malagasy.

Anonymous | April 28, 2009 1:51 AM

Some glaring inaccuracies in the previous comment: the Merina group make up the largest of the 18 or so ethnic groups @ about 25% of the population; in 2002, following a contested election, Ravalomanana became the 1st Merina president; all previous presidents since independence in 1960 were from the other ethnic groups. During colonial times, the french made it their policy to educate the Merina and Betsileo, who were then used as surrogates by the french to further their colonial aspirations.
Much of this info is in country-data via google btw.

anonymous | April 28, 2009 11:52 AM

It is obvious to me that Mr Johnstone is most influenced by his wife's vision of the merina. Please, you are not being neutral, don't pretend to be so .