Tantely Rakotoarivony, the director of the Topaza Orphanage, is facing trial once again for the alleged “crime” of allowing an unauthorized radio station on the orphanage premises. She has already spent six months in jail for this offense and since she was released on September 18, 2011 has twice appeared in court only to have the trial postponed. At the beginning of 2012, she was still awaiting an opportunity to clear her name in court.
When she was taken to prison in February 2011, the children at Topaza mourned that they had lost their “mother.” Seventy percent of the children in Topaza are orphans, meaning they have no close family members. The other children are court mandated because of problems in the home. Twenty eight of the children are under 8 years old. Having lost their own parents and close family members, they temporarily lost their new mother. Now they face losing her again.
The Rajoelina government is using the court system to intimidate those who would speak out against it. The government, which came to power in a military coup in 2009, has closed opposition radio stations because it knows they are the most effective voice for opposing the regime. In May 2010 they shut down a church radio, Radio Fahazavana, and arrested 11 of the journalists and personnel who worked there. They also removed the radio broadcast equipment. The 11, after spending several months in jail, are still awaiting a trial which has been repeatedly postponed, most recently until January.
These trials are especially egregious because the Rajoelina regime, along with opposition groups, signed an accord known as the “roadmap,” which specifically states in article 16 that “The President, the Government, the entire administrative machinery of the Transition and all the transitional institutions shall commit themselves to adopting security and confidence-building measures in order to create a serene and peaceful environment by terminating the ongoing legal proceedings against members of the opposition that would appear to be politically motivated, and by adhering to the rule of law and the principle of equal treatment.” Clearly journalists and Tantely Rakotoarivony should be protected by this provision of the roadmap.
The roadmap is an agreement facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which has been trying to work out a path by which Madagascar can have free and fair elections to restore democracy and the rule of law.
In addition, Rajoelina and his Minister of Justice, Christine Razanamahasoa , have both insisted that the regime holds no political prisoners. Amnesty International and the US government say otherwise. By the end of 2011, the human rights provisions of the Roadmap have yet to be implemented. Tantely Rakotoarivony, the personnel of Radio Fahazavana, and many dissidents are still muzzled by the threat of jail. Scores of political prisoners remain in jail. Political exiles are still prevented from returning to Madagascar, and an amnesty provided for in the Roadmap has yet to be put in place. Amnesty International titled its October 2011 report about the situation in Madagascar “Human rights must be at the heart of the road map to end the crisis.” The report stated:
“Amnesty International is concerned that members of the Malagasy security forces including the police, the gendarmerie and other security entities set up by the High Transitional Authority (Haute Autorité de la Transition, HAT) are still committing serious human rights violations including unlawful killings, cases of torture as well as unlawful arrests and detentions.”
International governments and institutions need to pressure the Rajoelina regime to respect human rights and fully implement the human rights provisions in the Roadmap. This will help Madagascar get out of the cycle of crises that have plagued the country since independence from France in 1960, and prevent poverty from getting much worse in coming years.
- for the safety and protection of FJKM pastors and church leaders;
- for insight and a sense of unity among the churches of Madagascar, that their ministry and witness may contribute to building a climate for justice and peace in Madagascar;
- for the effectiveness of the "roadmap" to end Madagascar's political crisis and, in particular, for the full implementation of its provisions relating to respect for human rights and the creation of conditions conducive to free and fair elections.
For more information on the unfolding situation in Madagascar, contact Debbie Braaksma, Area Coordinator for Africa, Presbyterian World Mission, at 800-728-7228, ext. 5916, or Douglas Tilton, Regional Liaison for southern Africa.