by Alpha Twist, 25 April 2013
Madagascar now has two classes of citizens: first class for citizens with human rights and second class for citizens whose human rights have been restricted. The “Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Madagascar” of 22 April 2013 (http://allafrica.com/stories/201304231183.html?viewall=1) states that Mrs. Lalao Ravalomanana, who has never been accused or convicted of any crime, is required to refrain “from making any political statement or participating in any political rally”. This goes against her human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and makes her a second-class citizen in her own country.
Mrs. Ravalomanana was forced to agree to limitations on her rights to freedom of expression and assembly as conditions for being allowed to return to her homeland to see her ailing mother. For Mrs. Ravalomanana, the choice was clear: either agree to the conditions imposed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Andry Rajoelina or risk never seeing her mother alive again.
The agreement which placed restrictions on Mrs. Ravalomanana’s rights is titled “Agreement on the visit of former first lady Madame Lalao Ravalomanana to Madagascar ”. It was between President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania representing SADC, Andry Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana, and Lalao Ravalomanana. The agreement states “While in Madagascar she [Mrs. Ravalomanana] will be free to communicate and meet with anyone but must refrain from making political statements and organize political rallies.” Further, it states that the “duration of former first lady stay in Madagascar will be premised upon the following circumstances and conditions:
– The state of health of the former first lady’s mother; as mentioned in point 5; and certified by medical experts in the institution where she is being attended.
– Compliance to the conditions of the agreement.”
In other words, if Mrs. Ravalomanana makes political statements, SADC could approve her being arrested and deported from her own country.
By imposing these conditions, SADC and Rajoelina are violating Mrs. Ravalomanana’s rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Article 13: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
By putting conditions on Mrs. Ravalomanana’s return to Madagascar the agreement is also a direct violation of the SADC roadmap which states in Article 20: “The High Transition Authorities (HTA) shall allow all Malagasy citizens in exile for political reasons to return to the country unconditionally, including Mr Marc Ravalomanana”.
Mrs. Ravalomanana returned to Madagascar from forced exile in South Africa on March 12, 2013. Since then she has refrained from making political statements. However, the Ravalomanana Mouvance announced on April 15, 2013 that Lalao Ravalomanana would be the Mouvance’s candidate for president of Madagascar in elections scheduled for July 2013.
On 22 April, the Express newspaper devoted a page to the campaign activities of Rajoelina’s TGV party’s candidate for president of Madagascar . One article was titled “Edgard Razafindravahy conquers the South”; “Lightning but sparkling visit of the TGV candidate” was another. The page had 6 photos of Mr. Razafindravahy in full campaign mode. In contrast, Mrs. Ravalomanana has been muzzled. The situation is inherently unfair: Rajoelina’s candidate is free to campaign but Mrs. Ravalomanana is not.
If she makes a political statement, she could be arrested and deported with SADC approval. The possibility of her arrest is already being discussed in the Malagasy media.
The threat of arrest and deportation are real. When she returned to her country from South Africa in July 2012, Mrs. Ravalomanana was promptly detained and expelled manu-militari from her own country. Here is how the US State Department described the incident in its human rights report for 2012 (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/af/204137.htm):
Mrs. Ravalomanana attempted to return on July 27, along with her daughter-in-law Guergena. The plane landed without incident, but authorities detained the two women at the Antananarivo airport. Security personnel physically forced them onto the next flight, reportedly injuring Guergena in the process.
Following her forced expulsion, on 31 July 2012 the US Embassy in Antananarivo responded with a communiqué on its Facebook page translated from the Malagasy as follows.
Communiqué about the attempted return of Mrs. Lalao Ravalomanana to Madagascar
We continue to support all the efforts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in seeking a solution to the crisis in Madagascar . We wish to point out that it is stated in the SADC roadmap that “all Malagasy citizens in exile for political reasons can return to the country unconditionally”. The political leaders here in the country should do what is needed to achieve free and fair elections that will be accepted by the international community in order to get back to democratic governance here in Madagascar. We encourage all involved to respect their responsibilities according to international law especially in accordance with human rights and the rule of law.
SADC, by contrast, in effect supported Mrs. Ravalomanana’s deportation by saying in a statement that it was « dismayed by the surreptitious attempt by Mrs Ravalomanana to enter Madagascar in contravention of the current engagements » (http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/SADC-chides-Ravalomananas-wife-20120731).
The UN remained silent.
The “Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Madagascar ” has already declared that “Mrs. Lalao Ravalomanana obviously does not meet the necessary conditions” to be a candidate for president of Madagascar . This is based on her not being physically present in Madagascar for six months as required by Malagasy law. The report did not mention that if she was not present for six months it was only because Rajoelina had her kicked out of the country manu-militari in July 2012 and because SADC has not upheld Article 20 of the roadmap.
SADC has conspired with Rajoelina to limit the human rights of one of Rajoelina’s major political opponents in a way that favors the electoral chances of Rajoelina’s own candidate for president. The African Union, in the Communiqué from the recent meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (http://www.peaceau.org/en/article/peace-and-security-council-368th-meeting-at-ministerial-level-22-april-2013-dar-es-salaam-united-republic-of-tanzania), noted the “Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Madagascar”. But the AU did not comment on the restrictions put on Mrs. Ravalomanana’s human rights, thus in effect condoning them. The United Nations and the rest of the international community in Madagascar are fully aware of the limitations placed on Mrs. Ravalomanana’s human rights. Yet they have said nothing, making them complicit with SADC in the denial of her rights.
Under the apartheid regime in South Africa , with one class of citizens lacking basic freedoms, elections were never free and fair. Neither will elections in Madagascar be free and fair as long as Mrs. Ravalomanana is denied her right to participate in the political life of her country.