Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cécile Manorohanta


BBC,"Madagascar defense minister quits":

Cécile Manorohanta said her conscience could not endure the bloodshed. She was replaced by the chief of military staff, Mamy Ranaivoniarivo. It comes amid a bitter power struggle between President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

VOA News,"Madagascar Defense Minister Resigns After Bloodshed":

Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has vowed to continue demonstrations that began last month. Rajoelina accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of being too authoritarian.

Over the weekend, police killed at least 28 demonstrators in Madagascar's capitol and Ms. Manorohanta resigned in protest, citing, besides her conscience, her role as a mother. I'll admit that before this weekend I didn't even know about the recent political unrest in Madagascar, let alone had I heard of Manorohanta.

But when I came across this news today, I couldn't help but think of Donald Rumsfeld, our last defense minister, er, secretary, to resign prematurely, and how different his reasons were: because he served "at the pleasure of the president", and the president was embarrassed by the outcome of the 2006 mid-terms. I also thought that I could never see anybody in the Bush II OR the Obama administration resigning over something like that. Condoleeza Rice? Hillary Clinton? Robert Gates?

Am I being unfair? I don't know. Although I think in many ways our government is probably just as corrupt as Marc Ravalomanana's seems to be, nobody's shooting Americans in the streets. And although it would be nice if Americans cared about their own government's many failings the way Madagascar's protestors do, obviously we shouldn't wish for a leader as (openly)thuggish as Ravalomanana.

But I also wonder: do people here make the connection, when we occasionally hear about stories like this one, why is it that Americans sometimes say that other countries need to be "taught" about democracy? I don't know what the level of formal education of the anti-government protesters who died this weekend might be, but I seriously doubt they wanted or needed any lessons from Americans about democracy.

one last snippet(it might be helpful to ignore writer Jonny Hogg's Thatcherist attitude, but I thought I'd include it anyway, for perspective):

BBC, "Deadly power struggle lays Madagascar low":

The damage to Madagascar's international reputation could be equally harmful. Under President Ravalomanana the country had been taking its first tentative steps into the global market after decades of socialist stagnation. Multinational corporations including Rio Tinto and Exxon Mobil have arrived, pouring millions of dollars into government coffers. The president himself has seen his own business interests - anything from dairy products to cooking oil - rise and rise.

However, in appealing to foreign investors the government alienated many Malagasy people. Food and fuel have become more expensive whilst the foreign funds have not improved the quality of life for most people. President Ravalomanana's reputation in the eyes of his critics has not been helped by his aggressive business approach and the fact that as his wealth continued to grow, the population was becoming poorer.

Equally harmful?

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom

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At February 10, 2009 6:08 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Actually if you recall Kent State during the Vietnam War era people were being shot in the streets and I certainly don’t recall anyone resigning over that so I think I would agree with your assumption. People were also shot in an earlier period when union workers were putting their lives on the line to bring about progressive changes. It makes little difference if it is national guards or police officers doing the shootings, its all part of the authoritarian government. More recently there was the young college fellow who asked Kerry embarrassing questions who was then tasered which could have easily killed him. This country is no different from any banana republic in this respect -- get out of line and question the ruling classes and you will be punished.

On the spreading of democracy thing I think most Americans actually have little interest in spreading democracy and in fact are quite tired of that sort of nonsense. The source of nation building resides mainly in the ruling classes who see it as a way to preserve their power and money. But for the segment of citizenry who do express a desire for nation building I suspect that that stems from the news media mouthpieces for the ruling class and also is part of the unmitigated arrogance built into American world views that Americans are superior to all other peoples. Arthur Silber has an excellent three part series on tribalism that delineates the source of this arrogance which is not unique to Americans but all peoples. However it does seem to me that it manifests most markedly in America much more than any other culture. It’s a matter of degree.


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