Pray for Madagascar

Some things annoy me, other things just make me sick… I haven’t reached my 48th year without losing a good part of my naïveté, or getting used to the violent ways of this world. There is however a stark difference when you know the place, and the actors, involved in the current bloody play on the world’s bloodthirsty stage. There is a whole dimension of emotional involvement we’re usuallyprotected from by our lack of de situ knowledge.

Not so for me this time with the current events in Madagascar, a country I toured last summer, where my wife comes from, and where we have many relativez and loved ones… It’s hard to keep one’s detachment, and unfair to these other tragedies that kill so many more in places I don’t know.

23 people (latest toll ) have been killed by the police in this afternoon’s demonstration. They were unarmed civilians, fired on by the police with kalashnikovs and possibly grenades. This took place close to the square where you’ll find the hotel we usually stay at when in Antananarivo, the capital town. This is a huge matter of sorrow for me. The Malagasy are a very friendly and hard working people, and foreigners (Vazahas, literally “managers” ) are very readily accepted there. They had been, till 1992, been under the ruthless of Admiral Ratsiraka, a tyrant who had sold the country to the Soviet Union during the Cold war. After some deadly demonstrations, he was ousted from power, only to regain 5 years later as the victorious opponents fell prey to division and personal greed… In 2002, he eventually lost the election to his rival Ravalomanana, but did not relinquish power until he’d been compelled by a not so bloody “civil war”. Since then, Ravalomanana, though an autoritarian by western standards (one of my relative, who is fairly vocal opponent, has been threatened wxith prison, and other people have actually been jailed ), seemd to have things relatively well in hand. The country even seemed to be a bit more prosperous last summer when we visited.

But even then, we’d heard of discontent in the capital town, and of the opposition between the President, and mayor Rajoalina, of Antananarivo. Rajoelina has built on the discontent of the poorest people, and created a strong movement in the capital area. He has addressed many of the issues Ravalomanana chose to neglect, till his power base in such a vital area became a threat to Ravalomanana, a threat that could not be ignored any longer, and things came to a clash. And there Madagascar stands now, on the verge of another civil war, with 2 strong contenders vying for absolute power in the middle of destitute poverty. The Mayor ahs called for the removel of the president, and the president has sacked the mayor. Then Rajoenaly has created his own government, courting the other provinces, and possibly the armed forces. Where that will end no one can know for now… all we can hope for is that once more, tragedy will be avoided. If you feel so inclined, please pray for Madagscar!

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