Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Madagascar Prohibits Protests Prior to Presidential Election.


Madagascar’s government has recently banned public protests, causing concern among critics who fear that dissent is being stifled ahead of the presidential election in November. The French-owned Radio France International (RFI) reported that the minister of interior announced on state TV that no political protests would be allowed in public, but they could be held in “an enclosed place” to maintain public order. The announcement was made on Friday, and the La Gazette de la Grande newspaper reported that its offices were raided after the arrest of its owner, Lola Rasoamaharo, who has been charged with defamation and extortion.

Critics of the government have claimed that the protest ban and Rasoamaharo’s arrest are examples of recent crackdowns on dissent in the island nation of 29 million people. President Andry Rajoelina is expected to seek re-election, and opposition leader Hajo Andrianainarivelo has accused the government of moving towards dictatorship.

Madagascar was ranked 98 out of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders in its press freedom index in 2022. In July, two opposition leaders were arrested when hundreds of people protested in the capital, Antananarivo, against rising living costs and deteriorating economic conditions. Weeks later, 18 people were killed when police opened fire on what they called a lynch mob angered at the kidnapping of a child with albinism in the southeastern part of the country.

In recent months, Madagascar has also faced devastating cyclones that have added to the economic hardship in one of the poorest nations in the world. More than two dozen Malagasy died and tens of thousands were left homeless when Cyclone Cheneso ripped along the island’s western coast in January. Two months later, Cyclone Freddy tore through Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar, killing more than 220 people and displacing almost 60,000.

The ban on public protests has been seen by some as part of a larger crackdown on dissent in Madagascar. The government’s actions have raised concerns about the country’s commitment to democracy and human rights, particularly in the lead-up to the presidential election in November.

Critics of the government argue that the ban on public protests is a violation of the right to free speech and assembly, and that it is an attempt to silence opposition voices. They point to the recent arrests of opposition leaders and the raid on a newspaper office as evidence of a broader campaign to suppress dissent.

The government, however, has defended its actions, saying that the ban on public protests is necessary to maintain public order and prevent violence. It has also argued that it is committed to upholding democratic principles and protecting human rights.

Despite these assurances, many Malagasy remain skeptical of the government’s intentions. They fear that the ban on public protests is just the latest in a series of measures aimed at suppressing dissent and consolidating power ahead of the presidential election.

As Madagascar continues to grapple with economic hardship, natural disasters, and political turmoil, the future of democracy and human rights in the country remains uncertain. The ban on public protests is just one of many challenges facing the nation as it seeks to build a more stable and prosperous future for its people.

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