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Madagascar: Wave of Arrests in the Aftermath of the Failed Coup

In the aftermath of the referendum and simultaneous failed putsch, a veritable waltzes of arrestations and investigations are shedding a sad shadow on the island.
The referendum lowers the presidential age to 35 years old (from 40 years old), allows Andry Rajoelina (now 36 years old) to participate in presidential elections, to stay in power indefinitely during the transitional period, however long that period becomes.

The final results of the referendum are overwhelmingly in its favor : 74% of voters approved, with a participation rate of 52.91% . The SADC has refused to acknowledge the referendum, donor countries, including the US, have criticized the referendum for not being inclusive. A twitterer relays that this was the worst ever organized elections in Madagascar.

Twitterer relays the fact that since Andry Rajoelina acceeded to power in a putsch in March 2009, 350 political prisoners are held in Malagasy jails.
While the referendum was taking place, the putschists had declared their intention to form a military committee to head the transitional governement. The attempted putsch lasted three days before 100 soldiers of the governmental army swept into the barracks where 20 putschists were entrenched, and arrested them without bloodshed.

Patrick A, remarks on the fantastic dissolution of the mutiny and the different treatments inflicted on the putschists

“Le caractère rocambolesque de la mutinerie était accentué par une reddition facile des officiers « rebelles », obtenue après quelques coups de feu tirés en l’air, comme pour malgré tout sauver l’honneur martial des uns et des autres. On nous expliqua ensuite que l’issue non violente était la conséquence de négociations entre « frères d’armes » issus des mêmes promotions de l’Académie militaire. Il n’est pas exclu qu’outre les pressions psychologiques, des assurances de peines légères et même des compensations financières furent avancées au cours des négociations.

Tout cela est finalement de bonne guerre. Au moins dirons-nous, plaie d’argent n’est pas mortelle.

Et comme pour confirmer cela, on ne peut que remarquer la distinction entre des mutins qui ont été envoyés directement à Tsiafahy et ceux dont la liberté est certes entravée, mais qui ont retrouvé ce qui est essentiellement la vie quotidienne d’un camp”.

“The fantastic resolution of the mutiny was emphasized by an easy surrender of the “rebel” officers, obtained after a few gunshots in the air, as if to save everyone's martial honor. One explained then that the non violent resolution was the consequence of negotiations between “brothers in arms” from the same graduation years of the Military Academy. It is not excluded that psychological pressure, insurances of light sentences and even financial compensations were advanced during the negotiations.
All this is fair enough. At least we would say that a monetary wound is not deadly.
As if to confirm these observations, one cannot help but notice the distinctive treatments between mutineers, some were directly jailed in Tsiafahy while others, whose freedom is certainly impeded, have essentially been returned to daily life in their barracks”.

One week before the putsch, the opposition head, Fetison Andrianirina, had also been arrested on the reason he participated in an illegal march protesting the controversial referendum.
During the putsch week, Fetison went missing. Contradictory tweets relayed information that he was at Tsiafahy (where most political prisoners are held), and the government later confirmed that he was now held in a “secret location” for “security purposes”. Fetison Andrianirina is now scheduled to appear in court in January 25. He could not appear to his previous scheduled court appointment, because his lawyer could not locate him.

Tweets also relayed that two of the putschists were  under critical condition while under custody of the transitional government. These two putschists are General Raoelina, head of security under Ravalomanana and implicated in the February 2009 shootings, Colonel Coutiti, imprisoned under Ravalomanana for crimes against humanity and freed under Rajoelina, were also in critical while under custody of the transitional government.
The head of the governmental forces would have said that he protected Colonel Coutiti or this one would have succumbed under violence. The government later confirmed that General Raoelina and Colonel Coutiti are indeed very ill, while not explaining how this happened under their watch.

A prominent Malagasy jurist and a retired vice president of the Hague international court of justice, Professor Raymond Ranjeva, has been charged on October 12, for complicity to incite unrest, civil war and acts of destabilisation. Ranjeva had returned to the country after retiring from the court of justice in the Hague. He had appealed for a real neutral transition which he would head. He had just published a document called “Vonjy Aina”. The current country's administration headed by Andry Rajoelina, who succeeded in toppling democratically elected Marc Ravalomanana in a coup in March 2009, seized on this document and linked it to the aborted putsch. Professor Ranjeva is now out on bail.

More surprisingly, Riana Ranjeva, daughter of Raymond Ranjeva, was also apprehended on suspicion of contempt of the army who had invaded her father's house to search for proof of his implication in the mutiny. The evidence that was hold against her as a “threat to national security” was the possession of one copy of the aforementioned document ” Vonjy Aina“, a publicly available political reflection on a solution to the current political stalemate.

Another prominent jurist, Harvard educated Sahondra Rabenarivo, a dual Malagasy US citizen, who had critiqued the proposed constitution, and recommended to vote against it, has also been questioned. She was investigated because she was part of the Vonjy Aina mailing list. She was later released.

The fear steeped climate is making Citoyenne Malgache wonder about the reasons why a popular bloggerhttp://njnw.wordpress.com shut down his blog, NJ's blog was known for his impertinent tone towards Andry Rajoelina and his government.

“Je viens de constater que le blog de Nj n’est plus available et je ne peux m’empêcher de me poser des questions, tout en ayant des idées de réponse. Et avec tout ce qui se passe en ce moment, je continue à me poser d’autres questions… oserais-je encore écrire d’autres lignes sur ce blog ? S’exprimer en tant que citoyenne est une nécessité démocratique, mais il arrive que cela dérange la susceptibilité exacerbée des gens du pouvoir et attire la foudre de leurs sbires…
Que se passerait-il si chacun de nous lâchait maintenant ? Est-il normal qu’on trouve normal que ces policiers zazavao nous pointent tous les jours leur arme à chaque carrefour ?”

“I just noticed that NJ's blog is not available anymore and I cannot help but wonder why, while having my own ideas to what the answers might be. With everything going on now, I continue to ask myself other questions… would I still dare to write other lines in this blog? To express myself as a citizen is a democratic necessity, but it happens that this would bother the exacerbated susceptibility of those in power and would draw their subordinates'ire…
What would happen if we all gave up now? Is it normal to find it normal that newly minted policemen point their guns at us at each crossroad?…”

Ndimby, a political blogger, ironises at the number of political arrests.

“à part les tramways et les stades, un fonja mora est-il prévu dans les investissements chinois pour caser tous les opposants, les journalistes, la société civile, et sans doute prochainement, les ambassadeurs de la communauté internationale “

“…tramways and stadiums, but have the Chinese investors planned a jail to host the opposition, journalists, civil society, and undoubtedly soon, the ambassadors of the international community?”

He echoes Citoyenne Malgache's fear that any rumor or an ill taken word now can lead one to jail :

“…dans l’ambiance actuelle à Madagascar, la Force a pris le pas sur le Droit, faisant ainsi mentir la fameuse injonction de Cicéron qui disait « Cedant arma togae » (Que les armes cèdent à la toge [du pouvoir civil]). A l’ombre protectrice (et bienfaitrice) d’un régime qui prétend user de la Foi tout en s’asseyant sur la Loi, certains se sentent le pouvoir de dire tout ce qu’ils veulent sans être inquiétés. Tout le monde doit donc se méfier, car n’importe qui peut être accusé de n’importe quoi : d’avoir assassiné Ratsimandrava, commandité les attentats du 11 septembre, financé les bombes artisanales, pratiqué la pédophilie, ou je ne sais trop quoi encore. Que personne ne s’étonne d’apprendre un jour dans la presse des 12 collines que Ndimby est en fait Oussama ben Laden, réfugié à Madagascar après avoir coupé sa barbe et lavé son turban (ou vice-versa).

de nos jours, un mot de travers, un article de trop ou un éternuement trop dissonant peuvent vous amener très rapidement aux trois voyages qui ne seront pas sur la banquise : première étape, la rumeur : les colonnes ou les ondes des médias hâtifs ; deuxième étape, la terreur : les bureaux de la gendarmerie ; troisième étape, la douleur : une cellule à Antanimora. Et tout ceci, sans que qui que ce soit ne lève le petit doigt. Et là, je pose la question à tous les va-t-en-guerre de salon, qui d’Antananarivo ou de 10.000 kms, appelaient des politiciens ou des membres de la société civile à oser se lever pour se dresser contre l’injustice : où sont-ils et que font-ils devant de telles tentatives d’intimidation contre ceux qui refusent la pensée unique des gros bras et grandes gueules ? En politique comme ailleurs, les conseillers ne sont jamais les payeurs…”

“… in the current atmosphere in Madagascar, Might has taken over Right, making a lie out of Cicero's famous saying “Cedant arma togae” (That weapons bow to the toga of the civil power). Under the protection of a regime which pretends to use Faith and Law, some feel they may say whatever they want without fear of reprimands. Everyone should be careful, because anyone can be accused of anything : to have murdered Ratsimandrava (a Malagasy President murdered in 1975, whoever commandited the murder have not been apprehended yet), ordered September 11 attacks, financed artisanal bombs, being a pedophile, or whatever else. That noone should be surprised one day that the 12 hills media will say that Ndimby is actually Usama ben Laden, harbored in Madagascar after having shaved off his beard and washed his headgear (or vice versa).

nowadays, one ill expressed word, one article too many or a too loud sneeze can lead you very quickly to three trips which will not be pleasant :
first leg of trip, the rumor : columns or wave of the transitional government medias; second leg, terror : in the offices of the police; third leg, pain : in a cell at the Antanimora jail. And all this without anyone lifting a finger. And here I ask all those braves who from their living room, in Antananarivo or 10,000 kms away, called politicians and civil society members to dare stand up to fight injustice : where are they and what do they do against intimidation tactics against those who do not accept the unique thought of those with weapons and the loudmouths. In politics as well, advisors are not those who end up paying …”

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