How to Legitimize a Coup d’Etat Recommendations from Madagascar

by Cyril S. Bucardo, 31 August 2013


Coups d’état are not overnight affairs.  To be truly successful, a coup d’état government needs to be legitimized over the longer term.

In this regard, Madagascar’s very successful coup d’état[a] in 2009 serves as a helpful case study for foreign powers who want to promote their interests in mineral-rich countries.  In the Madagascar coup, the International Community took actions that legitimized coup leader Andry Rajoelina before and after he seized power.


Based on actions and statements of various members of the International Community that helped legitimize the Madagascar coup d’état, the recommendations below are for foreign powers who may want to embark on similar adventures in other countries.  By applying the lessons from Madagascar, other coup leaders and their foreign backers can achieve power, protect their strategic interests, and have great opportunities for personal enrichment and lucrative business deals. As the Economist pointed out, “Coups obviously pay.”[b]


(Although this article is written as if a farce, the recommendations below are based on what actually happened in Madagascar – the endnotes attest to the sad and tragic reality.)


Before and During the Coup


  1. Refrain from calling what the coup d’état leader is doing an attempted coup d’état even after the coup leader proclaims himself in charge of the country, names a parallel government, takes over ministry buildings, and tries to take over the presidential palace.[1]
  2. If the coup leader is having a hard time overthrowing the democratically elected president and “the balance seems to be tilting in the direction of the president,” say something like “But this isn’t over. It’s going to be a long-term process.” Then, a few days later, encourage those trying to overthrow the president by saying things like “the cries in the street are an important message” and “it’s for the [people] to decide how they will translate these grievances for better government.”[2]
  3. Encourage the president to give the coup leader access to the national radio and television stations, then, if the president finally gives in, publicly express joy at this decision.[3]
  4. While the coup is in progress[c], act as spokesperson for the military doing the coup by telling the public things like “The colonels now in charge say this as clearly as possible: we are not here to do a coup d’état.”[4]
  5. Give the coup leader diplomatic protection while the coup is in progress, complete with accommodations at the former colonial power’s ambassador’s residence.[5]


Shortly after the Coup


  1. Congratulate the coup leader in his new presidential office two days after he ousts the elected president and discuss the “strengthening of relationship between the [colonial power and its former colony].”[6]
  2. Put out a communiqué the day after the coup in which the ousted president is termed the “former” president.[7]
  3. Insist that the ousted president was not under any threat the day he was ousted, as if the information that the downtown presidential palace was taken over by soldiers loyal to the coup leader the evening before “to hasten [the president’s] departure” was not a threat; same for the threats by the coup leader and his ‘justice’ minister to have the president arrested – act as if those threats did not constitute threats either.  If, for conscious’ sake, there is a desire to admit that the coup d’état included the “threats and pressures that pushed [the elected president] to do what he did”, don’t voice this until over a year after the coup when the coup leader is firmly in power.[8]
  4. Set out a policy that there was both a military coup d’état (led by the coup leader) and a resignation (of the democratically elected president); if asked by the press if the ousted president “resigned to not be president anymore”, reply “Indeed he resigned!” – this way, the actions of foreign diplomats the day of the president’s ouster can be seen as assisting the resignation rather than as contributing to the coup d’état; as part of this strategy, keep statements that directly say that the elected president “was overthrown in a coup d’état” relegated to obscure documents.[9]
  5. Blame the ousted president for the unconstitutional transfer of power by saying publicly that in accordance with the constitution he should have given power to the President of the Senate; never mind that “On the 17th of March [2009], it seems that it would have been impossible for the president of the senate to exercise power because he himself had been threatened.”[10]
  6. Send shady business and political operatives to help the coup leader do shady business and political deals.[11]
  7. Get the regional bloc of countries to stop efforts to return the ousted president to power.[12]
  8. If a diplomat goes off-script and calls for the coup leader to step down as president, shut him up and make sure all diplomats stay with the keep-the-coup-leader-in-power program.[13]
  9. Support increased international military “cooperation” with the coup d’état military in order to shore up military support for the coup leader.[14]
  10. Give the armed forces who did the coup an airplane and take the occasion to “salute the good understanding between the two armed forces” (those of the colonial power and those under the control of the coup d’état leader); confirm this military support a couple of weeks later by having foreign military officers accept military decorations from one of the leaders of the coup d’état.[15]
  11. Give notice that the colonial power reserves the right to interfere in the next presidential election by providing support “as discretely as possible” for a candidate for president of the former colony.[16]


During the Transitional Period


  1. Insist on stability as the major goal for the transitional period (= green light for the coup leader to repress those who oppose his rule).[17]
  2. Ignore Article 25.4 of the African Union’s Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which says, “The perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government shall not be allowed to participate in elections held to restore the democratic order or hold any position of responsibility in political institutions of their State.”[18]
  3. Instead, provide in the transitional roadmap for the coup leader to be able to be a candidate for president in upcoming elections.[19]
  4. Give the coup leader power to name all members of a new government; then call the resulting government a government of “national union.”[20]
  5. Give international approval for the democratically elected members of parliament to be replaced with people 100% appointed by the coup leader.[21]
  6. For the transitional roadmap, elevate newly created civil society groups that support the coup d’état leader to be on a par with the traditionally respected civil society groups. This way the effectiveness of the latter will be curtailed.[22]
  7. Keep silent when the coup d’état authorities replace hundreds of civil servants and elected officials with appointed people of their own political persuasion; likewise when mayoral elections are not held on schedule so as to eliminate all vestiges of democracy.[23]
  8. Receive the coup leader at the UN, the ElyséePalace in Paris, and at events such as the centenary celebration of the African National Congress in South Africa. (If the African Union has put in place travel sanctions against the coup leader, just ignore them).[24]
  9. Invite soldiers of the coup d’état regime to march down the Champs Elysées.[25]
  10. Give all kinds of training to the coup leader’s armed forces including commando and heavy arms training.[26]
  11. Put in place sanctions that hurt the people much more than they hurt the coup leaders.[27]
  12. If Amnesty International and the US State Department put out human rights reports that make the coup leader look bad, defend the coup leader’s human rights record by saying that the country “is by far not the worst country in the southern tropical zone as far as human rights violations are concerned.”[28]
  13. Keep silent if a ‘journalist’ and advisor to the coup leader who described pastors as “Ku Klux Klan” gets promoted by the coup leader to become Minister of Communication.[29]
  14. If organizations like Reporters Without Borders report that the Minister of Communication is violating freedom of the press, give support to the Minister of Communication by collaborating with him to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.[30]
  15. Give the coup leader 100 million dollars from a mining company for the coup leader to use as he wishes, especially for projects to be used for campaign activities.[31]
  16. Provide signed pre-approval for any court decisions condemning opponents of the coup d’état.[32]
  17. Keep calls low for an independent investigation into the violent acts that brought the coup leader to power because an investigation might reveal who financed the coup and who planned the violent acts that resulted in scores killed – instead, support the coup leader’s efforts to take the ousted president to court in the country of his exile.[33]
  18. Similarly, don’t call too loudly for an independent investigation into the scandals of the transitional period – trafficking in things like precious woods, gold, and endangered turtles, as well as trumped-up convictions of the coup leader’s political opponents and other human rights violations – because to do so might reveal that those who did the coup bear responsibility.[34]
  19. If the ousted president tries to return to his country in keeping with one of the articles of the transitional roadmap, turn the plane around mid-flight.[35]
  20. If credible organizations and individuals allege that the coup d’état military carried out rapes and summary executions and burned dozens of villages, do not insist that an investigation by the United Nations actually happen; remember: impunity is important for the coup d’état security forces to be able to repress the opposition, keep the coup leader in power, and in general to maintain an illusion of stability.[36]
  21. Encourage the coup leader to put in place a new constitution molded to the liking of the coup leader and his international backers so it can be used as the legal foundation for upcoming elections – if the constitutional referendum has major flaws or if leaders opposed to the referendum get detained in the process, grumble, but not very much.[37]
  22. Do not insist on the implementation of those parts of the transitional roadmap that the coup leader does not want to implement; do not provide a public evaluation of the roadmap so as to hide the extent to which it has not been implemented.[38]
  23. Keep calling for the complete implementation of the roadmap even after collaborating with the coup d’état leader to make sure one or more articles are not implemented.[39]
  24. Support the head of the new electoral court being the person who, as head of the High Constitutional Court, officially approved the coup leader being president of the transitional authority just after the coup, even though he admitted behind the scenes that he made that decision not on the basis of the constitution, but rather for political reasons – that way a key ally of the coup leader will be in position to decide on whether or not the coup leader’s political opponents can be candidates for president as well as being in position to decide the outcome of the elections.[40]


As Elections (Supposedly) Approach


  1. Agree to fund elections but do not make funding and political support for elections contingent on freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, or return of political exiles, thus giving indication that the International Community is prepared to certify elections as ‘free and fair’ without respect for basic human rights.[41]
  2. Propose that the coup leader and his security forces receive a “comprehensive amnesty” for doing the coup and other illegal activities.[42]
  3. Publicly advocate keeping the ousted president in exile (don’t worry if this goes against the transitional roadmap, there won’t be consequences if foreigners violate it, only if certain nationals of the country violate it).[43]
  4. Say nothing after the coup leader deputizes his chosen candidate for president to inaugurate structures that the coup leader has funded with money from undisclosed sources.[44]
  5. Collaborate with the coup leader to put conditions on the return of an exile with the potential to be a formidable political opponent of the coup leader (again, don’t worry if this violates the transitional roadmap because there won’t be consequences if foreigners violate it, only if certain nationals of the country violate it).[45]
  6. Give international approval (overtly and by not criticizing) for the coup leader to make the wife of the ousted president a second-class citizen in her own country without the right to say anything political under threat of arrest and expulsion.[46]
  7. Try to get the African Union to rescind sanctions against those who led or supported the coup d’état, all while the coup leader keeps sanctions in place against the ousted president and his wife.[47]
  8. Keep insisting that free and fair elections are possible even though opposition radio and television stations that were shut down illegally remain silenced, opposition candidates do not have fair access to the national radio and television stations, political prisoners remain in jail, and many of those who opposed the coup d’état still have suspended sentences or ongoing politically-motivated court cases hanging over their heads.[48]
  9. Invite the coup leader to the Vatican for a photo-op with the Pope.[49]
  10. Concerning “the eligibility or ineligibility of [the] presidential candidature” of the coup leader’s major political opponent, say that it “is a matter to be seen by the Special Electoral Court.”  Similarly, say “It is up to the Special Electoral Court … to decide on the validity and qualifications of all prospective candidates.”  Then, after the court accepts the candidacy of the coup leader’s major political opponent, say that she presented her candidacy “in violation of the constitution and the Electoral Law.”[50]
  11. If the electoral court approves the coup leader as a candidate for president (even though he filed his candidacy papers after the legal deadline), honor him that same day with a red-carpet reception and a photo-op session.[51]
  12. Get major news organizations like the Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, ABC News, RFI, etc to run articles that say that the coup leader is a candidate for “re-election” thus giving the impression that he was elected president, rather than coming to power by coup d’état.[52]
  13. If some laws are needed in a hurry, direct the coup leader to put out decrees rather than going through the appointed ‘parliament’ – after all, rule by decree is one of the things coups d’état are good for.[53]
  14. Threaten people from the country with sanctions if they undermine “the smooth running of the electoral process and the full implementation of the Roadmap”, but allow foreigners to undermine the electoral process and the transitional roadmap with impunity, thus giving the impression that what is important to the International Community is “smooth” elections as defined by the International Community rather than “true democracy.”[54]
  15. If the coup leader complains about the candidacy of his major political opponent, call this person’s candidacy for president “illegitimate”, “illegal”, and “in violation of the spirit of the … roadmap” (without ever saying how it is that the candidacy is “illegitimate”, “illegal”, or “in violation of the spirit of the … roadmap”) and call for that candidate to withdraw.[55]
  16. If the undesirable candidate does not withdraw her candidacy, threaten her, threaten her family, threaten her political associates, and threaten her business partners with travel and financial sanctions; make it clear that if she withdraws, the International Community will say that she did so “voluntarily.”[56]
  17. If a candidate for president speaks out against the continuation of the coup leader in power and the coup leader has him brutally arrested (putting to good use the commando training from the colonial power), just keep quiet – after all, the program is to keep the coup leader in power and repression is just part of the means to that end.[57]
  18. If protesters carry banners calling the head of the UN in the country a whore and the transitional presidency is implicated, stop praising the coup leader — but not for long – soon go back to praising his “high sense of responsibility and patriotism.”[58]
  19. If the electoral court issues a (supposedly unalterable) ruling that the International Community does not like, instruct that a new court be put in place to revise the ruling in line with the International Community’s wishes, under threat to not recognize the election results if candidates the International Community says are illegal are not found to be illegal by the court.[59]
  20. After the electoral court gets redone (and the new court includes 2 people under sanction from the African Union for assisting the coup leader’s coup) and issues a new verdict that disqualifies the coup leader’s major political opponent, rejoice at the new court’s decision and threaten anybody who would oppose it.[60]
  21. Get the media to say that a major opposition candidate did not meet the 6 month residency requirement without saying that if she was not present, it was because she was kicked out of the country by the coup leaders’ security forces.  If the electoral court considered that kicking her out manu militari was an “administrative measure” acceptable to the court as a means for the coup leader to disqualify his major opponent rather than “a case of force majeure” as maintained by the “controversial” candidate, get the media to falsely say that the court provided no explanation as to what legal “anomaly” resulted in the opposition candidate’s disqualification.[61]
  22. If it doesn’t look like it will be possible to hold the election within the legally defined period before the onset of the rainy season, say that it is OK to “cheat a little” as to the date of the election, then when a date is set within the rainy season in violation of the electoral law, get the court to agree to the new date by invoking a case of force majeure.[62]
  23. Threaten anybody who opposes the elections promoted by the International Community.  The incarceration and disappearance of people opposed to the coup leader’s tailor-fit constitution in November 2010 can serve as an example of what the International Community might condone should anyone oppose the upcoming election.[63]
  24. In a speech to regional leaders, falsely say that the ousted president violated his commitment not to run for president.[64]
  25. After the coup leader’s major opponent has been disqualified, say that conditions are now present for “peaceful” elections, never mind that opposition radio stations that the coup leader shut down are still off the air, that the coup leader’s ministry of justice blocked amnesty for people the coup leader wants to keep in jail, and that other provisions of the transitional roadmap have not been implemented that were previously considered important for having free and fair elections.[65]
  26. In violation of the sanctions put in place by the African Union, host the coup leader and his family in Mauritius, giving him a forum for saying things like “I am a man of law who respects the law” and “All the conditions are now united for organizing the elections in a calm climate to assure a return to constitutional order.”[66]
  27. Kill the doctrine of the African Union that “prohibits the participation of persons who contributed or benefited from an unconstitutional change of government in elections organized to re-establish constitutional order” by saying that all the candidates for election comply with relevant African Union decisions and by saying that all candidates are “the International Community’s candidates.” Never mind that these candidates include one who with the coup leader called on a crowd to go take over a presidential palace, another who admitted having made a “deal” with the coup leader prior to the coup, and 8 others who continue to be under sanctions from the African Union for having benefited from the coup.  With at least one third of the candidates having either taken part in the coup or benefited from it by being appointed by the coup leader to prominent positions in government, someone close to the coup leader has a high chance of getting elected. This will help perpetuate the coup leaders’ and their backers’ opportunities for continued personal enrichment and attainment of strategic objectives.[67]
  28. Declare victory, members of the International Community, and congratulate yourselves for the resolution of the crisis: the political stalemate has been “resolved amicably” because you have said so; in the same way the elections planned for October and December 2013 will be fair because you will say they are fair.[68]


The Madagascar crisis demonstrates that threats, lies, interference, double standards, hypocrisy and violations of principles are effective means for legitimizing a coup d’état.  Actions and statements of the International Community before, during, and after Andry Rajoelina came to power have set dangerous precedents that may inspire the overthrow of other democratic governments.  Andry Rajoelina and the people and entities who helped oust Marc Ravalomanana and prevented the participation of his political group’s candidate in upcoming elections have gained considerably as a result of the coup.  But the vast majority of Madagascar’s people, along with democracy, human rights, and rule of law, have suffered greatly.


[a] A successful coup d’état can be defined as one in which the coup leader ousts the elected president, gets international approval to remain in power until elections are held, and is still in power more than four years later with good prospects for continuing in power with impunity, all the while providing the coup leaders and their backers with opportunities for personal enrichment and lucrative business deals.

[c] A foreign ambassador in Antananarivo declared to the public on 5 June 2010 that the Madagascar coup began on 8 March 2009 (see Midi-Madagasikara, 5 June 2010:

[1] Sources :,,,11124.html,,; note that almost all members of the International Community did not declare an attempted coup d’état even after soldiers loyal to Rajoelina took over the downtown presidential palace on 16 March 2009 and Rajoelina himself entered the palace the next morning — see, the African Union was the lone exception (

[2] Sources:, Express de Madagascar, 7 February 2009,,,,,35065.

[3] Sources:

[4] Source :

[5] Sources :,,,

[6] Source:

[7] Source :

[8] Sources:,–Claims-Power-Again.html, La Vérité, 22 April 2009:,, Midi-Madagasikara 5 June 2010:

[9] Sources: Taratra, 22 April 2009: see “Mandefitra – 22/04/2009 10:14” at,,, La Vérité, 22 April 2009:

[10] Sources: La Vérité, 22 April 2009,, Taratra, 22 April 2009, see “Mandefitra – 22/04/2009 10:14” at,, footnote no. 45.

[11] Sources:,,,63391577-ART,,,,

[12] Source :

[13] Source:

[14] Source:

[15] Sources:,

[16] Source:

[17] Source:

[18] Sources:,

[19] Source: SADC Roadmap, Article 14

[20] Source: SADC Roadmap

[21] Source: SADC Roadmap

[22] Source: SADC Roadmap

[23] Eg Express de Madagascar, 9 May 2009, p. 5,

[24] Source:,

[25] Source:

[26] Sources:,

[27] Source:

[28] Sources:, , (ironically on the very day this came out the police intervention force tortured and killed a man “for allegedly using a slingshot to propel rocks at the presidential convoy” – see

[29] Sources: La Vérité, 11 January 2010, La Vérité, 14 January 2010, (p.7),

[30] Sources:,42545.html,,[showUid]=6520&cHash=5c32d89a61

[31] Sources:,,

[32] Source: “Explanatory Note on Paragraph 20 of the Roadmap” which was incorporated into the SADC Roadmap as Article 45.

[33] Sources:

[34] Sources:,,,102945401-BRE

[35] Source:–137815548/150932.html

[36] Sources:,,

[37] Sources:,,,15118.html

[38] As of the end of August 2013, SADC has yet to provide to the public an evaluation of the extent to which the roadmap has been implemented; Amnesty International reported, however, that “Some important provisions of the “Roadmap for Ending the Crisis in Madagascar” … were not implemented (” “These included the termination of politically motivated legal proceedings; the protection and promotion of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms; and return of political exiles.” Similarly, on 28 May 2013, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union acknowledged that “some provisions of the Roadmap have not been implemented” (  The AU PSC gave some indication as to which parts of the roadmap had not been implemented, but no details.

[39] Source:

[40] Source:

[41] Source:


[43] Sources:,

[44] Source:

[45] Source:

[46] Source:

[47] Sources:,,

[48] Source:

[49] Source:

[50] Sources:,,


[51] Sources:,


[52] eg and

[53] Source:

[54] Sources:,

[55] Sources:,,,,

[56] Source:[57] Sources:,,

[58] Sources:,,,[59] Source:

[60] Sources:,

[61] Sources: eg,,;,,

[62] Sources:,,[63] Sources:,,19061.html,,15111.html[64] Source:[65] Sources:,[66] Sources:,

[67] Sources:,,

Publié le 5 septembre 2013, dans Uncategorized. Bookmarquez ce permalien. 2 Commentaires.

  1. Le coup d’Etat à Madagascr est un cas d’école car lorsque la France sera chassée de toute l’Afrique elle s’accrochera à notre zone pour garder le contrôle du Canal de Morambique et des Iles Eparses. Tout dépendra alors des relations entre Madagascar et la RSA!!!

  1. Pingback: Coup d’Etat Laundering in Madagascar: Precedents and Consequences | Tsimok'i Gasikara

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