UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
MADAGASCAR: US boat donation to counter terror threats
JOHANNESBURG, 13 February 2003 (IRIN) - A recent US donation of seven patrol lifeboats to Madagascar was expected to improve the security of the island's coastline, officials said on Thursday.
"The boats will be used by the Malagasy navy for coastal surveillance and search and rescue activities. These boats also represent a major opportunity to fight terrorism in the Indian Ocean region," US ambassador to Madagascar, Wanda L. Nesbitt, said in a statement.
At the opening ceremony of the new parliament last month, President Marc Ravalomanana said he specifically wanted Madagascar to play a role in international politics and would help in the war against terrorism.
Presidential advisor Didier Rakotoarisoa told IRIN: "The boats will help us enforce the country's maritime law and improve overall security. It will give us more control over what comes into our ports and what leaves. Also, the boats will be used to identify any person who presumes they can come in by boat and disrupt the political stability that now prevails in the country."
After nine months of conflict last year, Ravalomanana, who won presidential elections against incumbent Didier Ratsiraka, finally established control of the island. Dozens of people were killed in sporadic clashes and the economy of the already impoverished country collapsed.
The turning point occurred in late June, when the US indicated that it would back Ravalomanana. France refused to take sides. Since then, observers have noted, the US has been courting the former French colony.
"While the donation will ostensibly be used to help enforce our own maritime laws, the fact that it was an American donation has implications. By improving security around the island, the US also safeguards against any attacks on its own interest in the region," civil rights activist Madeleine Ramaholimihaso said.
The donation, valued at US $2 million, was part of an ongoing programme of military cooperation between the United States and the Indian Ocean island.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict
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