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Madagascar: Three Soldiers Killed During Uprising in Military Barracks

[All links forward to French sources unless otherwise stated. All quotations have been translated from those in the original French post]

Three soldiers were killed and four injured during a confrontation at Ivato barracks, Madagascar on Sunday July 22, 2012. One of the injured was Corporal Koto Mainty, previously bodyguard of ex-Armed Forces Minister Noel Rakotonandrasana. The latest clash took place shortly before a planned meeting between interim leader Andry Rajoeline and the ex-President Marc Ravalomanananana, scheduled for July 24 in the Seychelles.

Edition Special news coverage including video of the confrontation can be viewed here:

An all too familiar pattern

There have been several outbreaks of fighting between soldiers since the 2009 change of power. The confrontations follow a pattern all too familiar to Malgasians, frequently happening shortly before each new attempt at mediation and crisis management. Journalist Rianasoa gave realtime updates on twitter as events unfolded in Ivato. Newsmada posted a photographic account of the revolt.

Fijery blog made the tongue in cheek observation that the scenario was as predictable as any Hollywood film:

When the July 24 Seychelles meeting between President Ravalomanana and Mr Rajeolina was announced, I bet my friend there would be an unusual event in the next few days, which would be used as a pretext to postpone or cancel the Summit. I won my bet, and a good dinner into the bargain: the experiences of the last three years have taught us much, and things are becoming so predictable that they're starting to get boring. With all this messing around, how would it be if the world takes us at face value, and that we end up nothing more than cartoon characters? [..]

We all remember the attack by Viva and the homemade bombs before a planned meeting in Addis Abbaba (July 2009), the shots fired at Rajoelina's car before Maputo III (Dec 2009), and a planned coup uncovered just before a Johannesburg meeting (April 2010) [..]

The stage seems to be set: Scene 1. The discovery of a scandal, just before each attempt at meeting. Scene 2. The Malgasian super-investigators, gendarmes, police and griots in the pay of the High Transitional Authority (HAT), take just a few hours, even minutes or seconds, to find the guilty party: the Ravalomanana camp. Scene 3. HAT announces that they will no longer be participating in the planned meeting.

Reflexiums added that the revolt unfolded according to a well-established process:

  • Early in the morning, a military barracks declares a revolt
  • A few hours later, the regional army arrives on the scene
  • A few minutes later, the bullets start to fly
  • A few seconds later, negotiations commence

Even Malgasian diplomats seem to share this belief in a deliberate set up. Newsmada tweeted about an article in Libération which stated:

A diplomatic source yesterday evoked the possibility of a performance designed to impress the international community and disrupt the meeting between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana. In any case, these troubles show the tense, volatile situation in the Great Island.

A soldier takes aim under the watchful eye of locals. Photo from Twitter via @RyMakao (CC-license-BY)

A soldier takes aim under the watchful eye of locals. Photo from Twitter via @RyMakao (CC-license-BY)

Who benefits from a crisis stalemate?

The BBC reported on the power the army wields over Madagascar politics in an article [en] on the revolt:

The army plays a major role in Madagascar's society, frequently meddling in politics. It backed Mr Rajoelina's 2009 seizure of power from Marc Ravalomanana. In 2002, the army had also helped Mr Ravalomanana to seize power in similar fashion when he led street protests against the previous Marxist administration.

Michael Rakotoarson underlined that the financial interests of soldiers in the Madagascar army are a significant factor in the crisis stalemate:

Let's return to this story of revolt, now that we have recalled that at root this coup is the work of the army, who will draw a handsome financial reward from it. By definition, a revolt or rebellion is a protest movement against the holder of authority. In this case, the army itself. Therefore these events are, at best, nothing more than a risible story of score settling (make no mistake) between these vile political leaders in cahoots with the army, combined with the worries of common people.

RFI noted that it is difficult to understand the objectives of this uprising:

The rebels haven't issued an official communication to journalists at the scene. They simply made an announcement on Free FM, private radio station of the opposition. They announced the breaking-up of institutions and the set up of a military directorate. An announcement followed up with no concrete measures and no results. It is difficult to qualify this revolt as a real coup given that the methods used are so pathetic. Certain well-informed sources say that the rebels are demanding the resignation of the Armed Forces Minister and the main Head of State. [...] The fact is that this revolt took place just before the meeting between Andy Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana [...] Was the revolt stirred up to put a halt to the meeting?

The fact is that nobody, not even the armed forces, seems to know the precise reasons for this revolt. The Courier International reported:

Armed Forces Minister, André Lucien Rakotoarimasy, said that it was “a revolt stirred up by certain elements” and maintained he “knew nothing about what they wanted”.

Although most Malgasians are pointing the finger at the army over the cause of these confrontations, Randy proposed another reason for this revolt, believing that the camp of ex-president Ravalomanana would prefer a military directorate in the interim.

The Fijery blog proposed instead looking for those who could be damaged by the possible return of Ravalomanana:

The planned Seychelles meeting having run into this setback, it makes sense that those who have a common interest in preventing it are trying to join forces. Whether it be those who want to hold on to unilateral power; those who do not want to speak of their actions in 2009 and after; those who do not want to see their lucrative but not altogether transparent businesses come to an end (racketeering, illegal logging…); those who profit from dirty money from Mauritian property investments; those who present themselves as innocent but shamelessly plunge mining investors into misery; and, in general, those who draw profit from the current atmosphere of anarchy and confusion.

Reflexiums concludes that trying to find out who is to blame for these confrontations is a futile exercise. The Malgasians would be better off asking themselves why they continue to put up with the same scenario again and again:

I said that we are spectators, but I was wrong, because we are the producers of this endlessly repeating third-rate film. By our own apathy, we are allowing these morons to continue their political games, so why on earth complain about it?

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