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Madagascar - Foreign Relations

Many Malagasy seem to think that the world will conform to Madagascar's peculiarities and lack of attachment to principles, rather than Madagascar conforming to universal principles or the rules of the AU, SADC, or the UN which Madagascar has voluntarily accepted. The diversification of ties, thereby avoiding dependence on any single power, served as another cornerstone of Madagascar's foreign policy initiatives during the 1980s.

The government imposed martial law on August 29, 1972. General Ramanantsoa’s control of the government was approved in a referendum on October 8, 1972, and President Tsiranana resigned on October 11, 1972. The government established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea in late 1972. After establishing diplomatic links with the Soviet Union in October 1972 — followed one month later by the establishment of ties with China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) — ties were enhanced in the economic, cultural, and politico-military realms. Soviet development assistance was directed toward the fields of agriculture, medicine, science, and technology, and scholarships were provided to at least 2,000 Malagasy students to study in the Soviet Union. A new Malagasy-Soviet Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation and Trade facilitated these links. The Soviet Union was particularly interested in promoting security ties with the Ratsiraka regime.

Relationships with other communist countries developed in a variety of fields. Whereas Cuba provided technical assistance within the educational realm, China funded the construction of roads between Moramanga and Toamasina, and built a new sugar factory near Morondava. The Ratsiraka regime was especially impressed by North Korean leader Kim II Sung and his ideology of national self-reliance known as juche (or chuch'e), hosting an international conference on this topic in Antananarivo in 1976. North Korean assistance was fairly extensive in the fields of agriculture and irrigation. The North Koreans were most noted, however, for their training of Ratsiraka's presidential security unit and the construction of a presidential bunker at Iavohola.

New directions in foreign policy were equally pronounced in Madagascar's relationships with other developing countries and its positions in a variety of international forums. In addition to breaking ties with Israel and South Africa, the Ramanantsoa/Ratsiraka regimes strengthened links with Libya, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and liberation movements in southern Africa and the Western Sahara. Madagascar also joined the Nonaligned Movement, became more active in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and took positions in the UN that favored the communist states, including abstaining on a resolution that denounced the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and supporting Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1978.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the beginning of a process eventually leading to the downfall of communist regimes and trading partners in Eastern Europe, the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, and the increasing international isolation of North Korea and Cuba as pariah regimes. Furthermore, this international trend facilitated the rise of popular pressures for a multiparty democracy in Madagascar, eventually leading to the downfall of Ratsiraka's Second Republic and its replacement in 1993 with a democratically inspired Third Republic under the leadership of Zafy. The cornerstone of Madagascar's foreign policy in the post-Cold War era is the continued diversification of ties, with an emphasis on promoting economic exchanges. In addition to establishing formal diplomatic ties with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in May 1993, negotiations were initiated to restore diplomatic links with Israel and South Africa. In each of these cases, diplomatic links are perceived as the precursor to lucrative trading agreements.

Madagascar, which had historically been perceived as on the margin of mainstream African affairs, eagerly rejoined the African Union (AU) in July 2003 after a 14-month hiatus triggered by the 2002 political crisis, and joined SADC in 2006. From 1978 until 1991, then-President Ratsiraka emphasized independence and nonalignment and followed an "all points" policy stressing ties with socialist and radical regimes, including North Korea, Cuba, Libya, and Iran. Taking office in 1993, President Albert Zafy expressed his desire for diplomatic relations with all countries. Early in his tenure, he established formal ties with the Republic of Korea and sent emissaries to Morocco.

Starting in 1997, globalization encouraged the government and President Ratsiraka to adhere to market-oriented policies and to engage world markets. External relations reflected this trend, although Madagascar's physical isolation and strong traditional insular orientation have limited its activity in regional economic organizations and relations with its East African neighbors. During his term, President Ravalomanana welcomed relations with all countries interested in helping Madagascar to develop. He consciously sought to strengthen relations with Anglophone countries as a means of balancing historically strong French influence.

Following the March coup, Andry Rajoelina set up a High Transitional Authority (HAT). The AU and SADC condemned the coup d’état and suspended Madagascar. Following the 2009 coup d'etat, Madagascar was suspended from participating in AU and SADC activities until constitutional order is restored. The UK, US and EU condemned the events. Most donors in Madagascar, including the United States and the European Union, suspended assistance programs to the Government of Madagascar. The United States undertook only humanitarian assistance programs that had a direct impact on civilian populations in need.

The international community, under the aegis of the AU and SADC, supported by an International Contact Group (ICG) which brought together the UN, Francophonie, P5 and EU, continue to lead mediation efforts to find a solution to the crisis. On several occasions, the ICG has brought together Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, as well as two other former Malagasy Presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy (all four lead a political movement in Madagascar). The AU's International Contact Group coordinated international community action to ensure a return to constitutional rule as quickly as possible, and SADC appointed former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano as a mediator in the effort to find a consensual, negotiated solution to the ongoing political crisis. Additionally, the AU and others have enacted certain targeted sanctions or travel restrictions on members of the HAT regime who are impeding a return to free, fair, and durable democracy in Madagascar.

The Maputo agreements of August 2009, and the Addis Ababa Additional Act of November 2009, detailed a roadmap for a consensual transitional government leading to inclusive and transparent elections monitored by the international community. However the agreements broke down in December 2009, with Rajoelina unilaterally announcing plans to replace the previously agreed transitional leadership with his own nominees, and hold parliamentary elections. As a result, in March 2010 the AU announced targeted sanctions on a number of political figures in Madgascar, including all the members of the HAT. In June 2010, the EU formally suspended its development partnership with Madagascar, but continues to provide humanitarian assistance.

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Page last modified: 12-10-2016 19:48:44 ZULU