Restore democracy, respect human rights, and protect the environment in Madagascar

Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Restoration of democracy, respect for human rights, and protection of the environment in Madagascar.

Map-madagascar That was the heart of the message provided by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission Co-worker Dan Turk and Doug Tilton, regional liaison for Southern Africa, at a briefing given on October 19 about the current crisis in Madagascar. They spoke to representatives of several faith-based non-governmental organizations at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

Home to an incredibly rich biodiversity, the island nation of Madagascar faces what one commentator has called The Forgotten Madagascar Crisis.

The 219th General Assembly (2010) describes the roots of the crisis in these terms:

"Madagascar’s crisis flared in late January 2009 when Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo, called for the removal of the country’s democratically-elected president, Marc Ravalomanana. Rajoelina attempted to form a parallel government, known as the High Authority of the Transition (HAT), but made little headway until mutinous army officers precipitated a coup d’état on 17 March 2009, handing power to Rajoelina."

Ravalomanana fled the country, and Rajoelina consolidated his power. The General Assembly reports:

"African organizations, such as the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), quickly condemned the coup and called on Madagascar’s political leaders to restore democracy. The SADC brokered multilateral talks involving supporters of Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, as well as two previous presidents, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy. In late 2009, these negotiations twice reached agreement on steps to resolve the political impasse, only to have the HAT government take unilateral actions that violated and wrecked the accords. This prompted the AU and European Union to impose targeted economic and travel sanctions on key HAT officials earlier this year."

The crisis in Madagascar has included human rights abuses as noted by the General Assembly:

The government has suppressed press freedom, arresting a number of journalists and closing down Radio Fahazavana, the station operated by the PC(USA)’s partner, the four million strong Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM). On May 20, 2010, soldiers attacked an ecumenical group of pastors who were trying to hold a worship service to pray for peace in the nation; one FJKM pastor was killed and another was badly beaten and detained. The United States initially condemned the coup (during which the U.S. ambassador was also assaulted) and has terminated economic assistance to Madagascar’s government, but it has failed to condemn publicly the human rights abuses perpetrated by the HAT government.

Madagascar's crisis has continued and led to ongoing suppression of human rights, economic challenges resulting in increased poverty and hunger and environmental degradation including slash and burn agriculture, illegal trafficking in rosewood, and the eating of turtles and lemurs.

In their briefing, Dan and Doug told the story of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) and our shared ministries that seek to protect Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity, promote agricultural development (particularly of fruit trees), provide clean water and sanitation, prevent the spread of HIV, malaria and other threats to public health, and witness to the good news of Christ's Gospel.

They also focused on the need for the United Nations community and the United States to ensure that Madagascar's crisis is not forgotten and steps are taken to ensure the restoration of democracy, respect for human rights, and the protection of the environment in Madagascar.

Sources of information on the crisis in Madagascar.


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