A few months ago, I published a piece entitled "Was There Really Good News from Africa in 2008?" I highlighted all the inspiring things which African countries were doing which made me believe that 2009 would be a banner year for the continent.
It now seems that was premature.
On Tuesday, President Marc Ravalomanana resigned after a military coup led by opposition leader and Andry Rajoelina.
That may not sound extraordinary, but the details of this coup and its aftermath are particularly embarrassing:
#1. President Marc Ravalomanana vowed to fight the military overthrow to the death:
A spokesman for the president's office said Marc Ravalomanana would never resign and was ready to die along with the loyal guards defending his grand residence in the capital of the Indian Ocean island. "I will die with you if I have to," the Ravalomanana said to his presidential guard.
The next day he was signing papers to transfer power over to Andry Rajoelina.
#2. Rajoelina, the new acting president, is a former radio-DJ (to be fair, he was also a popular opposition leader and city mayor).
#3. The new acting president is 34 years old, six years too young to be president according to Madagascar's constitution (the constitution requires presidential candidates to be at least 40 years old).
#4. And to top it all, Madagascar's Constitutional Court confirmed Rajoelina's seizure of power by military force yesterday by proclaiming that "Mr. Andry Rajoelina exercises the attributions of the president of the Republic as stated by the provisions of the constitution."
All of this spells trouble for the Malagasy people by setting a dangerous precedent for future opposition leaders. Perhaps the best news to come from this is the immediate condemnation of the coup by the African Union and the South African Development Community (SADC) (comprised of Angola, Tanzania and Swaziland). SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao sums it up:
In Africa we have 54 countries. We cannot say because we have coups in Madagascar, Mauritania, and Guinea that's the trend. The trend is democracy, democracy, democracy. Yes we have to put a stop on this thing to happen, and the only way to do that is to send a clear message to those who follow this pattern that this is not unacceptable in Africa and in the SADC region.