Madagascar's new president, Andry Rajoelina.

US May Cut Aid to Madagascar Following Transfer of Power

March 20, 2009 02:30 PM
by Cara McDonough
The U.S. government called the hand off of power “undemocratic” and is questioning its relationship with the African nation.

Groups, Nations Cutting Ties With Madagascar

Following the island nation’s transfer of power to its military, and then to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said that the United States is “evaluating what impact this transfer is going to have on all elements of our relationship with the government of Madagascar.”

According to Bloomberg, Rajoelina is “a 34-year-old former nightclub disc jockey-turned-businessman,” who has taken over the presidency with help from the military. Marc Ravalomanana stepped down from the post earlier this week after opposition members took over his office.

Madagascar received $86.2 million in assistance from the United States over the last fiscal year, including $27.3 million provided through the Millennium Challenge Corp., a program that aims to reduce poverty in developing nations that demonstrate improvement in their records on political and civil liberties, and corruption.
What will happen next? For the immediate future, the people of Madagascar will likely look to restore structure to their nation’s government, while dealing with international disapproval.

The United States is not alone in its reaction; Voice of America reports that a group of African nations, represented by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), says Rajoelina's takeover was unconstitutional and has urged the international community not to recognize his presidency.

The Republic of Zambia has taken even further measures, calling for Madgascar’s suspension from the SADC and the African Union.

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Background: Unrest in Madagascar

Earlier this month, soldiers who supported Rajoelina and the opposition movement forced army chief Gen. Edmond Rasolomahandry to resign.

The move was further evidence that the opposition group was leading the military, and the latest blow to then-President Ravalomanana as he struggled to keep control amid growing unrest.

Considering the escalating conflict, the U.S. State Department suggested that Americans leave the island. Reuters quoted a message from the American embassy in Madagascar that stated: “We encourage all Americans in Madagascar to monitor the situation closely and consider departing the country while commercial air is still operating normally.”

Even as he holds the presidency, Rajoelina’s background has been seriously questioned. He was fired as mayor of Antananarivo in February after leading repeated anti-government demonstrations, and declaring himself in charge of the country.

Ravalomanana’s political past includes controversy as well. In 2002, he declared himself the country’s leader after what he claimed was a corrupt election denied him victory. Then-incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka agreed to a second round of voting. The government refused to validate the declaration, and Ravalomanana faced the threat of becoming an international criminal.

But after months of violence and economic instability, Ratsiraka fled to France. Ravalomanana began an era of reform and has consistently attempted to decentralize government and empower leaders in smaller provinces.

However, poverty remains widespread in Madagascar, and some have blamed the president for not doing more to alleviate it. The country's tourism sector has also been hit hard by the unrest, Reuters reported earlier this month.

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