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Saturday, May 1, 2021

learnings from Madagascar's failed experiment !

The Latin phrase  ‘De mortuis nil nisi bonum’    "Of the dead, [say] nothing but good", yet there are so many circumstances in History especially Political history that one cannot BUT  speak the TRUTH ONLY .. ..

Ratsiraka was a controversial figure. Nicknamed the “Red Admiral” for his socialist policies, he was a national hero and great patriot for some, for  many others even on his death, seen only  a ruthless dictator with policies that led to the ruin of the national economy and the country’s cultural heritage.

Madagascar is famous for its small animals; the mouse lemurs, the smallest primates on earth, for instance, are widely known. There’s also growing awareness that Madagascar is home to a variety of other uniquely miniaturised animals, especially chameleons and frogs. In those groups, researchers have discovered large numbers of tiny species in recent years.

Recently, Indian naval ship INS Shardul made a port call in Madagascar’s Antsiranana as part of increasing patrols of the Indian Ocean in recent years given a surge in Chinese naval activity in these waters. Adhering to covid19 protocols, the port call was conducted in “a non-contact format and a virtual conference with officials of Madagascar Armed Forces was held on 23 March," an Indian navy statement said. In recent years, Indian naval ships have increased their presence and patrols in the waters of the Indian Ocean region that New Delhi considers as lying within its sphere of influence. Indian naval vessels have acted as first responders to nations affected by natural calamities on the eastern sea board of Africa – a case in point three Indian ships of the Navy assisted Mozambique in relief and rescue operations in March 2019 after Cyclone Idai made devastated southern and eastern Africa.

Madagascar   is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa. At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi) Madagascar is the world's second-largest island country. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world) and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting sociopolitical alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960.  

Didier Ignace Ratsiraka (4 November 1936 – 28 March 2021) was a Malagasy politician and naval officer who was President of Madagascar from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002. At the time of his death, he was the longest-serving President of Madagascar.

He was first appointed president in 1975 by the military leadership, he was then reelected twice in 1982 and 1989. While he lost to Albert Zafy in 1992, Ratsiraka returned to office after winning the 1997 election. After the 2001 election, he and his opponent Marc Ravalomanana engaged in a lengthy standoff after the latter refused to participate in a runoff election; Ratsiraka eventually stepped down.

Ratsiraka attended Lycée Henri-IV, a prestigious public secondary school in Paris. He then graduated from École navale, the French naval academy, as a naval officer with a bachelor's degree in 1962. He returned to Madagascar, where he began his career as a naval ensign at the French naval and military base in Diego-Suarez. In 1964, Ratsiraka married Céline Velonjara and had  four children, namely Olga, Sophie, Annick and Xavier.

Known as the "Red Admiral", he was made head of state, as President of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, by the military leadership on 15 June 1975.  He began setting up a socialist system, guided by the Charter of the Malagasy Socialist Revolution, which was approved in a referendum held on 21 December 1975, establishing the Second Republic;  Ratsiraka was also elected President for a seven-year term in this referendum, which received the backing of 95% of voters according to official results. In the midst of a poor economic situation, Ratsiraka abandoned socialist policies after a few years in power and implemented reforms recommended by the International Monetary Fund. He was re-elected as President with 80% of the vote in 1982 and with 63% of the vote in 1989. The latter election was condemned as fraudulent by the opposition, which protested, and at least 75 people were killed in the resulting violence.

Ratsiraka faced intense opposition to his rule in 1991. On 10 August 1991, about 400,000 people marched on the Presidential Palace, The government placed the death toll at 11, although other reports placed the toll much higher. Ratsiraka said that he had not ordered the Presidential Guard to open fire, but Ratsiraka's orders were recorded and in these records, he ordered the helicopter to shoot the car of the HAS president and open fire on the strikers.    

On 6 August 2003, Ratsiraka—who was accused of stealing nearly eight million dollars in public funds from the annex of the central bank in Toamasina in June 2002, just before going into exile—was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in Madagascar. Because he was living in France, he was tried in absentia.  However, few years later in Aug 2009,  Ratsiraka met with President of the High Authority of Transition of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina, as well as Ravalomanana (who had himself been ousted and forced into exile) and former president of the Malagasy Republic Albert Zafy, in crisis talks mediated by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and held in Maputo. Ratsiraka's amnesty issue, related to the court sentence that prevented him from returning to Madagascar, was resolved at the talks. Ratsiraka returned from exile in Nov 2011.  Ratsiraka died from cardiac arrest at CENHOSOA hospital in the early morning of 28 March 2021, at the age of 84.

Despite such a long and controversial rule,  there are two legacies that stand out.

·         First is the country’s deep poverty. While Madagascar was among the most advanced African countries at independence, it is now ranked among the poorest in the world. The World Bank estimates that 77.4% of the population lived below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day in 2020. It was 46.1% in 1980 and increased to 70% in 1992, when Ratsiraka left power for the first time.

·         Second is the lack of education (or miseducation) of its young people. After two decades of socialism and “Malgachisation” (use of the Malagasy language as an educational language) under Ratsiraka, Madagascar had one of the worst education systems in the world.

A classic case of what wrong autocratic corrupt governance can bring to the people – there are lessons to be learnt by every country, every democracy. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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