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On Madagascar, UN Rejected Views of Jailed Ravalomanana, Free Speech?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- While today's UN says it believes in freedom of speech, including political speech, and non interference in the internal politics of states, its approach is selective.

 On October 16, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "rejected remarks made by former President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, challenging the legitimacy of his country's democratic institutions."

 On October 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Ban was aware that Ravalomanana has been arrested, his family banned from traveling to the capital, while his statement has a colorable basis in fact and history. Video here and embedded below.

  Mightn't Andry "DJ" Rajoelina’s declaration of support for Hery Rajaonarimampianina in November 2013 and his campaigning for Rajaonarimampianina constitute a violation of the SADC Road-map?  Why from afar condemn the free speech questioning of the current government of Madagascar full legitimacy?

   Dujarric simply reiterated the statement, not responding on the arrest or travel ban, saying there might be a further answer. But by close of business there was none. This is today's UN.

   Back on May 13, 2013, amid growing controversy in and about Madagascar, at the UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's then-spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: On the Madagascar question, is, is, there has been since I last asked this, the SADC (Southern African Development Community) has come out and said that three candidates, they are encouraged to withdraw their candidacies, saying they are not consistent with the road map. This is Mr. [Andry] Rajoelina, also Lalao Ravalomanana and another candidate. And so, one, I wanted to know if there is a UN response to that, but two, since Ms. Ravalomanana is being barred for having been out of the country, and this was a forced exile by the Government, I am wondering whether the UN has any view on forced exile, that being used as a basis to bar a candidate from running.

Spokesperson Nesirky: We can check for you on that, Matthew. I don’t have anything right now.

  But it was not until Wednesday, 47 hours after the question, that a response arrived. But the UN response did, deferring to SADC, take or adopt a position:

Subject: Your question on Madagascar
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:13 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

In response to your questions at the noon briefing concerning Madagascar, the Spokesperson can say the following:

The United Nations is supporting the Southern African Development Community's (SADC's) mediation efforts to ensure a peaceful transition in Madagascar, and what SADC has urged is that President Rajoelina, the former first lady, Lalao Ravalomanana, and former President Didier Ratsiraka all consider withdrawing their candidatures to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections and stability in Madagascar.

  With this answer, the UN takes a position if only indirectly on forced exile: it's fine, or at least can legitimately be used, in the UN's view, to encourage a candidate to withdrawn.

  Now on May 20, Ban Ki-moon has put out this statement:

Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Madagascar

The Secretary General shares the concerns expressed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union over the latest developments in the electoral process in Madagascar. The presentation of candidate nomination papers by Transition President Andry Rajoelina, Mrs. Lalao Ravalomanana and former President Didier Ratsiraka, and the decision of the Special Electoral Court to endorse those candidatures, is in violation of the spirit of the SADC-mediated Road Map.

United Nations assistance to the electoral process is conditional upon strict adherence by all parties to the Road Map as the sole framework for a restoration of the full legitimacy of the Government of Madagascar.

The Secretary General calls on all stakeholders to comply with the SADC Organ Troika and the African Union Peace and Security Council decisions, so that elections can take place in accordance with the calendar prepared by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the Transition and endorsed by the United Nations.

New York, 20 May 2013

  Lalao Ravalomanana returned to her country on July 27, 2012, but was promptly kicked out of the country by armed security forces.

  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to return to one’s country as a basic human right. So to maintain, as France and SADC -- and now the UN -- do, that Mrs. Ravalomanana’s candidacy is not legitimate is to condone forced exile as a means for preventing someone from taking part in the political life of their nation.

After the CES decided on May 3 that Lalao Ravalomanana is officially a candidate, France announced on May 6 its “deception” on learning that the CES accepted Lalao Ravalomanana’s candidature.

  Inner City Press had asked, What is the UN’s position regarding Mrs. Ravalomanana’s forced exile in July 2012? Does the UN consider forced exile to be a legitimate reason for barring a person from being a candidate for election in his or her country? And that question has apparently been answered. Watch this site.

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