Madagascar: ask our correspondents

special correspondents in Madagascar – Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of Madagascar's capital, has been confirmed as acting president, replacing his political rival Marc Ravalomanana. FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier (pictured) and Virginie Herz answer readers’ questions about the situation.


Question from Lemzo, Dakar, Senegal (18/03/09):

How's your reporting in the field going?


Virginie Herz:

It’s going well overall. The last few days have been pretty eventful so w've had to rush around a lot. One of the hardest things here is the number of rumours - they spread like wildfire, making it very tough to gather facts. We have to check each new piece of information three or four, even five times.



Question from Vasaha 74, Morzine, France (18/03/09):

I travel to Madagascar every year and crisscross it on my motorbike. Have you felt a rise in anti-French sentiment recently?


Virginie Herz:

I personally haven't felt any anti-French sentiment, even though sometimes we've been asked to take sides, as French citizens, if an argument breaks out between supporters of opposing parties. Ravalomanana's supoprters accuse France of protecting Rajoelina. Rajoelina's supporters resent the fact that the French media use the term ‘coup’ when describing their takeover. We’ve been involved in spirited discussions, but they have never turned violent.



Question from Mavuba, Donetsk, Ukraine (18/03/09):

Wouldn’t it be better for the current Madagascar strongman to organize fresh elections as soon as possible? Just to prove to the world that he is a real democrat and patriot?


Virginie Herz:

Clearly quick elections, earlier than in two years' time, would be the best way for Andry Rajoelina to counter accusations that he has come to power in a coup. The next presidential elections were scheduled for 2011 in any case. Rajoelina says the country needs two years to ensure elections that are truly free and fair. According to him, previous elections were tainted by voter fraud.



Question from Bôry, Lyon, France (18/03/09):

Does the arrest warrant against Ravalomanana still hold? If so, why has he not yet been arrested?


Virginie Herz:

Not only is the arrest warrant against Ravalomanana still valid, but many of his ministers aren’t allowed to leave the country. Andry Rajoelina confirmed this to us in an interview on Wednesday evening. The former president has not yet been arrested because he is in hiding. Some believe that he is under the protection of the US embassy and trying to be smuggled out of the country, but the embassy denied these allegations when we contacted it.



Question from Rafotsy, Paris (17/03/09):

Are you sure the military directorate to whom Ravalomanana handed power weren’t forced to name Rajoelina interim president? Weren’t they coerced by members of the CAPSAT (pro-Rajoelina army)?


Virginie Herz:

The military directorate claims it wasn’t coerced. I attended their press conference at CAPSAT. But I also heard, and verified from several sources, that shortly after Ravalomanana transferred power to the generals, they were driven to their barracks by members of the CAPSAT forces, and remained there several hours before they announced that they were transferring full powers to Rajoelina.



Question from Anonymous in USA (12/03/2009):

I want to know how this crisis is affecting the average Malagasy family. Are they working? Going to school? Continuing their normal everyday activities? Or are things at a bit of a standstill? How is this power struggle affecting the people? Do they want this change? Or do the majority of people want things to return back to the way they were?


Cyril Vanier:

By most accounts, over the past week, the majority of the population has continued to live a normal life. Most shops are open, schools are open and people continue to go to work. Normal life is temporarily disrupted when violence breaks out in a given area of the capital, but it does not usually last very long. For instance, if government and opposition supporters clash -as they have done several times over the past few days - people will stay away from a given area or more likely observe the violence from a distance, and as soon as the security forces disperse the protestors, normal life resumes almost immediately.


Do the people want change? Almost all of the people I have spoken to want the style of governance to change. As it was explained to me, President Marc Ravalomanana won the people's hearts in 2002 because he was a new face, untainted by the authoritarian politics of the past, and he embodied aspirations for a freer, fairer society. Now many are disappointed because they feel that over time, the president started favouring his own business interests over the interests of the nation.


Many here agree with the opposition's criticisms of the president. However, that is not to say they are all die-hard supporters of President Ravalomanana's political adversary, Andry Rajoelina.



Question from Anonyme in Madagascar (12/03/2009):

What is the state of the military today? Have they started taking over the national police and government offices as you stated in an earlier interview?


Cyril Vanier:

The mutiny that broke out in a military camp on the outskirts of the capital city has spread to the rest of the army. They took over the seat of military power in the city centre, and unilaterally appointed a leader, whom they refer to as the new army chief of staff.


The army did not meet with any resistance as they took over strategic military locations, and to date they have not had to fire a single shot in order to take power.


They now effectively control the city.They acknowledge that some within their rank did not want to mutiny. Those are reportedly a small minority.


The police have now fallen in line behind the army, and so did the military police, so all the security forces are effectively working together.


As for government offices, the army is not taking them over, but they are giving the opposition free reign to do so.



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