Sunday, September 20, 2020

SADC should save Madagascar

Over the past week, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held a Special Summit in the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo, to, among others, discuss the political situation in Madagascar.

Which is altogether right because, for some time, the situation has been degenerating in that island.

The latest regarding the situation in Madagascar is that the military backed leader, Andry Rajoelina, has decided to withdraw from power sharing talks. Further, it has been revealed that Rajoelina’s government wants Madagascar to go to the polls.

This is despite the fact that ousted former leader Marc Ravalomanana and two other former leaders were in talks with the hope of setting up a transitional government to take the country to the polls sometime this year.

We underscore here that it is regrettable that in the first place the talks which received support from the International community were allowed to collapse.

The United Nations, The Organisation of African Union (AU) and SADC have made their voice known that the only way to salvage democracy is through the talks. A forum for engagement between the country’s leaders is by far the best attempt one could come up with as an endeavour and hope to take the country to the polls.

So far Madagascar has been cut out of the African community and the Southern African region as she has been suspended from both the AU and SADC.

At this week’s regional meeting, through a statement released this week, SADC leaders have taken a firm position and not only condemn Rajoelina’s plans to call elections but also urged the parties to return to the talks. We think that is a good start. SADC should go further.

It has to be noted that the political crisis in the island has cut economic growth, scared away tourists and alarmed foreign investors in Madagascar’s minerals mining and oil sectors. In short, the political crisis threatens to turn the country into economic ruin.

While SADC’s efforts so far might be hailed as commendable, it is perhaps noteworthy to signal a warning that if not resolved as early as now the political crisis in Madagascar could turn the country into another Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe used to be the envy of many countries around the world.

However, when Robert Mugabe’s controversial Land redistribution started it took Zimbabwe on a new path that set the whole country on fire.

What started off as a political dispute over Mugabe’s land policy has today, a decade later, resulted in the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, the currency being rendered a worthless piece of paper.

In fact, millions of Zimbabweans have fled their mother country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and abroad. This is over and above the killings and systematic violations of people’s human rights by state apparatus for those who remained behind.

As late as 2008, the situation in Zimbabwe had deteriorated to a point of a crisis in living standards and public health. Currently, the Zimbabwean coalition government is still failing to implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which was brokered by SADC.

Africa, as a continent, is cursed with the burden of conflict ridden power struggles which start as personal rivalry only to develop bigger and start claiming innocent lives. The long and short of it is that SADC also has to enhance its conflict resolution mechanism to ensure that the situation in Madagascar does not become a repeat of Zimbabwe.

Talks cannot be talks for the sake of talks, rather talks have to give birth to a meaningful resolution accepted by all the parties in the interest of the people. Such a resolution has to be sustainable and long lasting. Thus it has to address all the key issues that have brought disharmony to the fore.

It is on this note that this paper urges all interested parties in the Madagascar political situation to revive the talks so as to allow for the formation of a coalition government that will ultimately take the country to the polls. Madagascar has to claim its place in the world arena and within the SADC bloc.

This is not just about regional stability.

Success and victory in the talks will be victory for the people of Madagascar who just, until March last year, enjoyed the fruits of a democratically elected government.

It is our hope that the talks between Madagascar’s leaders will resume. If indeed the talks resume, it is our hope that the four Madagascan leaders will shift away from self-serving, self preserving political interests and lay the path towards democracy and reconstruction of the country before all is lost.

The winners should be the people of Madagascar who are suffering as a result of the madness meted on them by people who pass for political leaders.
To succeed at the negotiations table, there has to prevail a spirit of political will, flexibility and tolerance.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.