MADAGASCAR: Focus on economic recovery and national reconciliation
The political crisis has taken its toll on the urban poor
Johannesburg, 15 July 2002 (IRIN) - After an eight-month long power struggle that divided the island nation, Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana has called for national reconciliation.
The millionaire businessman told local media at the weekend that the time had come to "stop chasing men and devote ourselves to development", daily newspaper L'Express reported on Sunday.
Ravalomanana's comments came in the wake of allegations of attacks against supporters of former president Didier Ratsiraka in the north of the country.
Defence Minister Jules Mamizara also urged army officers not to abuse nearly 60 Ratsiraka supporters arrested last week, after a special commission of enquiry was set up to investigate the former regime, L'Express said.
Ratsiraka fled the island earlier this month for the Seychelles following the fall of Tamatave, the last province loyal to Ratsiraka. The veteran leader is reportedly now in France.
Bolstering his military success, the new president also received official recognition for his government from several western countries, including former colonial power, France.
However, at the launch of the new African Union (AU) in Durban last week, African leaders upheld a controversial decision not to endorse Ravalomanana's administration, saying he took power unconstitutionally and called for fresh elections.
Political analyst at the University of Madagascar, Didier Ramakavelo, told IRIN: "The decision in Durban was disappointing, especially since the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) had pushed for some kind of resolution to the crisis. It is perhaps not the ideal solution but it has brought the crisis to an end. Nevertheless, Ravalomanana has some of the key donor countries on his side."
Local press reports suggested that the island's authorities were not too perturbed by the AU decision. In an editorial, The Madagascar Tribune took the view that Madagascar's priorities at the moment were economic and not political, "therefore the decision taken in Durban yesterday hardly caused a stir".
As the Indian ocean island starts to rebuild its economy, aid agencies said residents in the capital, Antananarivo, welcomed the reappearance of fuel at petrol stations.
UN Development Programme officer, Patrick Tesha said: "The overall situation in the country is calm and the people are beginning to find their bearings again especially in view of the fact petrol has been distributed in a number of gas stations in the capital - at a level that is generating long queues of cars and trucks - but it is seen as a welcome move. It is expected that normal distribution will resume in a month or so from now."
Ratsiraka loyalists erected make-shift barricades around Antananarivo in February in an attempt to isolate the capital and starve its residents of fuel and other vital supplies.
"The famous barricade at the Brickeville Bridge on the road between Tamatave and Antananarivo was dismantled. Were it not for the mudslides that invaded the portion of the road that links Tamatave to Brickeville, communication with the capital would have been restored. Work, however, is underway to clear the mudslides and is expected to take between one to three months," Tesha said.
He added that consumers would have to wait a while to see a drop in the high prices of basic food items and bus fares.
"This is natural, given that those involved are trying to recover lost ground," he said.
Thousands of jobs were lost and the economy was brought to its knees following the disputed presidential elections in December last year. The official tally gave Ravalomanana victory, but below the 50 percent needed to avoid a second round run-off.
He accused Ratsiraka of rigging the vote. The country's High Constitutional Court in April declared Ravalomanana the winner with an overall majority but Ratsiraka refused to accept the ruling. The stalemate deteriorated into military clashes between the two camps along the east coast and in the north of the country.