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On Madagascar, UN Calls for Withdrawal of Rajoelina AND Lalao Ravalomanana

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 -- Amid growing controversy in and about Madagascar, at the UN noon briefing on May 13, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's 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.

  That exchange took place at Monday's noon briefing, and three hours later Inner City Press was again told that it was being looked into. 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on forced exile: it's fine, or at least can legitimately be used, in the UN's view, to encourage a candidate to withdrawn.

  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.

The canned history: in Madagascar, France has a long history of using forced exile as a political tool for maintaining control over the island nation. In 1897 it exiled Madagascar’s last queen who died in Algeria in 1917 having never been allowed to return to her country. After the 1947 uprising against French rule, France exiled the three Malagasy political leaders that France said were responsible. When one tried to return to Madagascar in 1959, France prevented him from returning.

 In the current crisis, after Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown in Rajoelina’s 2009 coup, France has admitted trying to find a country to accept Ravalomanana in exile. In January 2013 France publicly voiced its opposition to allowing Marc Ravalomanana to return from forced exile before elections.

  And now Lalao Ravalomanana.

  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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