Madagascar election concerns prompt church action, government response
by Doug Tilton | Special to Presbyterian News Service
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar — known by its Malagasy acronym, FJKM — has issued a statement calling for peace, prayer, repentance and dialog following violent clashes between police and protesters in the center of the capital, Antananarivo, which left at least two dead and more than a dozen wounded. Amnesty International called on the Malagasy authorities to “ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation” into the killings.
The conflict erupted as the FJKM’s National Council was holding its semi-annual meeting at the end of April. The Council condemned “violence and killing in any form” and called instead for “meetings and dialogue as ways to find solutions to the problem.”
The immediate problem is growing popular concern that the next national presidential elections, due by the end of 2018, will be open to manipulation.
At the beginning of April, the national parliament prompted extensive criticism when it narrowly adopted three highly contested laws designed to regulate the forthcoming elections. Press reports alleged that the legislative process was marred by bribery and corruption. Opposition leaders charged that the resulting laws would favor the incumbent president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in part by preventing his most formidable opponents — the two previous presidents, Marc Ravolomanana and Andry Rajoelina — from running.
Opponents of the laws called for demonstrations on April 21, despite the government’s attempt to impose a ban on public protest. The security crackdown provoked further demonstrations over the following weeks.
On May 3, the country’s High Constitutional Court, struck down a number of the electoral laws’ most controversial provisions. The move seemed to vindicate opponents’ claims, but it has also thrown the electoral timetable into doubt.
“Although all sides are currently saying that they want presidential elections to be held on schedule in late 2018, a quick resolution of the current crisis is not a given,” warned Presbyterian World Mission co-worker Dan Turk, who serves in Madagascar. “The president faces widespread disapproval. The members of the National Assembly leading the demonstrations are trying to keep the crowds in control, but this may become harder as time goes by if people feel that their voices are not being heard or if others try to manipulate the demonstrations.”
The electoral protests have tapped into much more profound popular dissatisfaction with the government. “People joining the demonstrations are expressing their frustration with the high levels of corruption in the government, the judicial system, and the armed forces. They are citing the increasing difficulty of living on less than $2 a day when faced with rising prices and insecurity,” Turk explained.
The Church in Madagascar has played a pivotal role in helping to promote peace and consensus during past cycles of political crisis. The Christian Council of Churches in Madagascar (FFKM, composed of the FJKM, Lutheran, Catholic, and Anglican churches) organized ecumenical services to pray for peace and reconciliation in the wake of the protests. The FFKM has also been asked to assist in mediating between the two sides.
The FJKM has invited its partners in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to pray for a just and peaceful resolution of the current crisis and the implementation of an electoral process that will give all of Madagascar’s people an effective opportunity to express their political will.
A translated statement from the FJKM National Council is below:
The National Council of the FJKM, that is currently having its regular meeting (April 18-25, 2018) here in Antananarivo, is putting out this statement in the name of Jesus Christ, pillar of peace and lord of all power in heaven and here on earth:
- In consideration of what happened in Antananarivo on Saturday, 21 April, when people were killed and wounded at Analakely, we share our sadness with the families of those who lost loved ones, we give them encouragement, and we wish healing for those wounded still undergoing treatment.
- The FJKM strongly condemns violence and killing in all forms.
- The FJKM calls for meetings and dialogue as ways to find solutions to the problem.
- No matter what happens, we encourage the people of God to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and his love and to bear testimony to truth.
To close, we call on all Christians to continually pray in order to fulfill what God said, “if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again.” (2 Chron. 7:14).
To God be the glory!
In the name of the National Council,
Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi, Pastor
The President of the FJKM
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