Maestro of Malagasy diplomacy

2011-10-22 20:50

Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman recently became the presidential envoy to Madagascar.Mandy Rossouw quizzed him on his first coup in the battle for power in the country

Diplomats say you scored a diplomatic coup when you got all the parties in Madagascar to sign the roadmap to peace. How did you do it?

We were unstinting in our position and clarified the views of the Southern African Development Community. The process previously favoured one of the parties.
Also, we affirmed that Madagascar is a sovereign state and that the current process is a political one, not a judicial one. This means that issues like former president Marc Ravalomanana being found guilty of abuse of office will be dealt with later.

What are the key issues of dispute in Madagascar?

In Madagascar every five years the president gets kicked out of his country and this cycle must be broken. We must find a sustainable solution. There are economic interests that drive this as well. This time around, the current Malagasy leader Andry Rajoelina does not want Ravalomanana to come back and contest elections. The SADC was clear that all Malagasy exiles should be allowed to return, but Rajoelina said Ravalomanana can only come back after elections. This means he was interpreting the roadmap differently and it needed to be addressed.

How was the situation in Madagascar when you came on the scene?

The situation was extremely tense. The military had late night meetings with me where I was threatened, but because we stood our ground and it was clear we were not moving, they began to understand the different perspectives.
When we wanted to get all the political parties to go out for dinner together, two restaurants refused to take the booking because they were sure that fighting would break out. But we eventually had our dinner with all the parties together and it was very successful.

How did you convince the parties to sign the roadmap?

There was an integrity factor in this process which was not there previously. It became clear that the SADC was acting as a coherent force.
We agreed not only to a roadmap but also to an implementation framework. This week the cabinet and prime minister stepped down as we agreed and the new prime minister is not allowed to be from the same political platform or geographical province as Rajoelina.
The new prime minister must have the confidence of the opposition.

What guarantees do you have that they will stay the course and stick to the roadmap?

It continues to be a sensitive period. We will see now whether the prime minister is appointed as we agreed. If he is, we will go back to observe the swearing-in ceremony. If not, we will have to start again.

This is your first international conflict – what lessons have you learnt so far?

The lesson is that the relationship between the warring parties and the authority, in this case the SADC, must never be compromised. The lines of communication must always remain open.
The SADC must also have the power to do more and have the resources to deal with these issues effectively.
Also, the SADC requires a fulltime institute for mediation that has dedicated and experienced mediators who are trained to do this kind of thing and learn from previous experiences.
People often sign roadmaps but they don’t think of how to operation-alise the plans.

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