A message from the Archbishop
The French newspaper La Croix acted as the mouthpiece of Françafrique on 3 October 2009, when it published an interview of the Archbishop of Antananarivo, Mgr Odon Marie Arsène Razanakolona — Omar for short after the acronym of his names.
What story does the religious arm of the military mutineers (the notorious Capsat) want to tell the public?
First he says that he worked as a mediator appointed by the Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Hailé Menkerios. Note that the course of events had not given me a hint about it. Would that be a way of adorning a CV with a view to obtaining a position in the Roman Curia? It is a little flaw to be commonly found in CVs meant for promotion. But then he forgets to remind us of his vibrant appeal to the Army so that « they may accomplish their duty for the sake of the people ». Thereupon the Capsat men saw that he had given them his backing for the mutiny which soon occurred …
The little flaw must not conceal a much bigger one: Mgr Omar obviously has a very bad memory. Another example is his assertion that « the President’s guards shot dead more than a hundred people among Andry Rajoelina’s supporters who were marching towards the palace ». That is not the point of view of a historian but of a partisan. He says nothing about the instigator nor the initiators of the march. The truth is that two days before 7 February 2009, even though the presidential offices had already vacated the palace of Ambohitsirohatra, Ravalomanana did warn Rajoelina not to take such a risk so as not to add one more fire to those which had earlier burnt down the City Hall, the historical Prime Minister’s and Queen’s Palaces. Rajoelina must have taken the warning into account because he did not accompany his supporters but preferred to take refuge in his cosy residence.
Mgr Omar says that the President’s guards shot dead more than a hundred people. Yet the press counted less than 30 casualties in « the massacre of Ambohitsirohitrara ». Would Mgr Odon deliberately exaggerate the macabre statistics in order to increase his importance as the spokesman of a multitude of martyrs? In my opinion he is a highly qualified expert in disinformation. Pictures of the « massacre » clearly show that the first bullets that hit the demonstrators were not shot from the palace but from the roofs and windows of neighbouring buildings, and even in the midst of the demonstrators. Loyalists in the Army have confirmed those facts long since, laying the blame on Rajoelina’s militiamen. In the evening of that very day Ravalomanana requested an international investigation—vox clamans in deserto. The HAT (High Transition Authority) never backed the request.
La Croix reports that Mgr Omar resigned from his mediator’s responsibility on 26 February, declaring that he could not possibly go on negotiating in an atmosphere of terror. He conceals the fact that he was the instigator of terror by encouraging mutineers. On 17 March he let the Episcopal headquarters be invaded by wild putschists who threateningly pointed their guns at diplomats attracted to the trap, ill-treated and then arrested the president (a minister) of the FJKM (the Reformed Church of Madagascar). He may have resigned from his mediator’s responsibility, but did not give up participating in the organization of the coup which he has backed ever since.
He keeps silent about assaults, arbitrary imprisonment and violation of human rights as regards the supporters of the «legal order» whom he even blames for the unrest in Madagascar. He has chosen to side with the mutineers To his. mind does reconciliation mean disappearance of all opponents either by terrorizing or physically eliminating them ? Anyway, his idea of reconciliation prompts him to suppress any tentative freedom of thought within the Episcopal Conference. The case of the poor Bishop of Antsirabe, Mgr Felix Ramananarivo, shows evidence of his power.
The Archbishop, though a specialist of canon law, lacks the vocabulary of basic human and social sciences. « Riots », as he calls them, were actually looting and arson methodically organized by the opponents to Ravalomanana.. The incredible ransacking in late January caused the death of more than a hundred people, but he keeps silent about it although it triggered off the present political crisis. Mgr Omar speaks like a graduate in political science in his description of the situation in Madagascar. He must have misunderstood the explanations of his adviser in politics and communication—a graduate from the prestigious institute of Science Po—when he said to the journalist: « How can they (the international community) force the four parties to agree and rule the country together! It would be like an alliance between Sarkozy, Chirac, Jospin, and Giscard in France: would it have any chance of success? A deposed president cannot work with the one who deposed him! »
How sadly surprising it is to see his complete ignorance of the rules in the relations between a Head of State and a Head of Government in France! How could the mediator conduct negotiations with such ideas in mind?
The Archbishop seemingly believes that elections could not be organized to resolve the crisis then! Looking down from the pulpit of La Croix he thows his sentence against the international community because they threaten to deprive Madagascar of « external financial aid…which would only aggravate the problems ». He considers them as responsible for all the woes of the Malagasy people. As he is neither a democrat nor a liberal, he thinks that the only way out would be that the international community back the putschists. « What is most important is that the international community acknowledge the change brought about by the Malagasy people themselves, and help us to prepare the next elections and the ensuing new government. Otherwise, the situation will grow more and more complicated, and the Malagasy population, tired of the endless discussions, will be fed up ». At this point, the reader is fed up with such hypocritical a language.
The article in La Croix is illustrated with a photo of Mgr Omar, with a broad smile, the same smile as could be seen on his face on the balcony of the Episcopal building at Antanimena on 17 March, while he watched the success of his coup. But the Malagasy people, among whom many Catholics, who have suffered form the troubles for nine months no longer respect the Archbishop. A French Bishop, questioned about the role of Mgr Omar in the Malagasy crisis, diplomatically replied: « This is a very difficult question. I think that he went beyond where he was permitted to go». A clear answer. I am afraid he is not « the salt of the earth » and likes hot pepper better than salt. Will the Synod of Rome be able to right the spirit of a man who stepped out of the ecumenical and national community of Madagascar?
Let us recall Mgr Tonyé Bakot’s words: « One can be cut of from the community because of a serious misdeed, and then seek again communion with all. That is the meaning of forgiveness granted or received, depending on whether one is offended or guilty ». People can see where the misdeed lies and who the culprit is.