Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana is expected to
hold talks with the opposition Wednesday in an attempt to resolve ongoing
protests in the capital, Antananarivo that have left at least two people dead.
This comes after President Ravalomanana called for national unity Tuesday, a
day after he described protesters' demand for a change in government as disloyal.
The opposition had called for the change in government after President
Ravalomanana closed an independent radio station for broadcasting an interview
with former President Didier Ratsiraka. Jean Michele Wachsderger is a professor
of Sociology at the University of Lille, France. He tells reporter Peter
Clottey Madagascans do not want their freedom of expression suppressed.
think the situation is critical, but I think perhaps the two opponents can find
a solution because they are in the process of having a meeting today
(Wednesday). For me the problem is that President Marc Ravalomanana has for two
years closed many kinds of media that last one was Viva the television of Andry
Rajoelina, who is the mayor of Antananarivo," Wachsderger noted.
said there is hope that Wednesday's meeting between the government and the
opposition would help resolve the political impasse.
think they can resolve it because the mayor of Antananarivo has decided to hold
discussions with the president and the president has said he was ready to hold
discussions with him. So, I think they can find a solution," he said.
said President Ravalomanana ordered the closure of the independent radio
station because he was not too enthused about the station's broadcast interview
with exiled former President Didier Ratsiraka.
"Yes, that is the
explanation given by the president. But you know this interview with Didier
Ratsiraka was broadcast in other media outlets too and the only one, which was
closed, was that of the mayor of Antananarivo. And that is inexcusable because
Andry Rajoelina is a strong opponent in Madagascar," Wachsderger pointed out.
He said some Madagascans
feel let down after reposing great confidence in President Ravalomanana's
promise to alleviate their suffering.
"I think many people are
disillusioned, they were expecting too much from the president. We made a
survey, which is called Afro barometer survey in May 2008, and we can see in
the survey that many people keep their confidence high to the president," he
Wachsderger said some are
also of the opinion that their freedom of expression is being undermined by the
president's order to close the independent station.
"Now, in the capital people
know that the wealth of the country is not going to everybody and they would
like to have the freedom to express their opinions to be heard. Perhaps it is
their opportunity to express their opinion," Wachsderger noted.
urged the international community to help with Wednesday's negotiations to
resolve the ongoing political impasse with the opposition. But the opposition
leader ruled out negotiations with the government until the perpetrators behind
the people killed are apprehended and dealt with by the authorities.
The escalating tensions over
the weekend forced President Ravalomanana who had been due to attend a regional
summit beginning Monday in Pretoria, flew back on Sunday night and accused the
mayor of Antananarivo of calling for a revolt.
Antananarivo Mayor Andry
Rajoelina ran against Ravalomanana's party and won as an independent candidate
in the 2007 municipal elections. He has grown into the regime's most vocal
opponent after coming into office. Rajoelina often condemned what he described
as shrinking freedoms in the country and also fiercely criticized what he has
called a massive project to lease vast swathes of farmland to South Korean
industrial giant Daewoo.
Meanwhile, the African Union said Tuesday it is
closely monitoring the situation in Madascar, describing it as problematic. The
Southern African Development Community (SADC) is also reported to be closely
monitoring events in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo.