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09ANTANANARIVO439 2009-06-16 09:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Antananarivo
Cable title:  

MADAGASCAR: TIME TO RE-ENGAGE WITH THE FRENCH?

Tags:   PREL PGOV PINR UN MA 
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1. (C) Summary: This is an action message for AF and
possibly Embassy Paris (see para 7). With
AU/UN/Francophonie-mediated negotiations here all but
collapsed (reftel), the International Contact Group for
Madagascar (ICG) -- which includes the USG -- should now
regroup and consider alternate strategies. As this happens,
there is an acute and rising concern here, which we share,
that the French are leading an effort to abandon the
mediation in favor of a less-than-consensual move into early
elections; in our view, this approach will fail to resolve
the crisis. The Francophonie (OIF) and AU are leading this
charge, inspired by "new ideas," probably based on new
instructions from Paris. While the French here are being
entirely mum, the UN mediator (strictly protect) is telling
me that Elysee Secretary General Claude Gueant is now calling
the shots on Madagascar, guided by "Francafrique" stalward
Robert Bourgis -- and sidelining the Elysee tandem of Joubert
and Marechaux. French efforts to broker introductory
meetings for TGV with other heads of state on the sidelines
of the Bongo funeral have failed, and TGV has cancelled plans
to go there; however, the fact that France was making these
arrangements at all, after reportedly having also played the
intermediary for his recent visits with Wade and Qaddhafi, is
seen here as evidence of their engagement against the stated
policy of the AU, UN, EU, US -- and themselves. The UN
mediator is seeking to get more engagement from the UK and
Germany, as counterweights to the French role, and will also
seek to engage the UNSYG more directly in these efforts. We
recommend that AF weigh in with Paris to caution against
abandoning the mediation in favor of a less-then-consensual
approach by the HAT, that could backfire. End Summary.



2. (C) As foreseen in reftel, political negotations here
all but collapsed over the weekend with the refusal of the
HAT to consider a demand for a broad amnesty demanded by
former President Ratsiraka. TGV has instructed his
delegation to withdraw, and Ravalomanana has also given
instructions to block and disrupt. The idea now in the air
-- apparently supported by the HAT and some others -- is to
say, "we tried negotiations; now let's move directly to
elections by the end of 2009." According to UN mediator
Tiebile Drame, a campaign is being organized to blame the
collapse on the international mediators, asking publicly "how
can the international community object to the early elections
they have been demanding all along?" The problem is that the
organization of those elections by the HAT, even if
accompanied by a small coterie of splinter factions and
defectors from the other political movements, would not be
consensual, and almost certainly would provoke a boycott, or
worse, by political forces outside that process. They would
therefore not resolve the crisis at all. We and the UN have
warned the HAT and others that non-consensual elections would
not be supported by the international community and must be
avoided in favor of continuing what admittedly are difficult
negotations.



3. (C) While clear proof lacks, it appears that the French
back -- and probably are behind -- this new approach. Drame
(protect) believes that Elysee Secretary General Claude
Gueant, working with Francafrique stalward Robert Bourgis
(who recently visited Antananarivo), is now calling French
shots on Madagascar. They apparently have supplanted Elysee
advisors Bruno Joubert and Remy Marechaux, and perhaps even
Diplomatic Advisor Jean-David Levitte. Bourgis is known as
the quintessential Francafrique player, deeply steeped in
intrigues elsewhere in Africa and connected to French
networks throughout the region. TGV was supposed to leave
yesterday for Bongo's funeral, where the French reportedly
had worked out appointments with a number of African heads of
state, according to Drame. However, Ravalomanana apparently
derailed this process with his own active diplomacy, and
Ambassador Jean-Marc Chataigner here advised TGV Sunday that
the trip was off. Drame is convinced that France previously
organized TGV's trips to see Wade in Dakar and Qaddhafi in
Libya. Their goal is to make eventual recognition of the HAT
as palatable as possible through a series of high-level
encounters inferring legitimacy.



4. (C) Chataigner expressed his view several months ago
that resolution of the Malagasy political impasse by June 26
was critical. June 26 is now around the corner, and at
Friday's ICG meeting his deputy pressed the parties for a
"target date" for signature of the "Charter for the
Transition," now under discussion since mid-April. While
most ambassadors are already saying -- as I am -- that they
will not attend or be represented at the June 26 celebration,
speculation is rife that the French (who are saying nothing
on this issue) plan to attend. They appear to be looking
hard for a pretext for recognition before then, which would
make them the first to recognize the HAT; they are still
smarting from having been preceded in recognition in 2002 by
the Swiss and Americans. This also would allow their
unaccredited ambassador finally to present his letters, and
allow them to move back to the business-as-usual approach
they so clearly desire. The way they intend to do this,
according to Drame, is to move the HAT quickly toward
elections, truly consensual or not; once on that path,
recognition will become possible. Already, Drame reported,
the HAT has asked the Elysee directly for five million Euros
to support those elections, in which they would be
accompanied by an assortment of splinter groups and defectors
who would be characterized as providing the necessary
consensus.



5. (C) Drame is working hard within the AU/UN/OIF mediation
team to come up with another approach, to steer them back to
the negotatiating table and away from non-consensual
elections. The ICG is likely to be convened later this week
to discuss the options. Drame is strongly opposed to rushing
forward with non-consensual elections, but he is concerned
that AU mediator Ablasse Ouedraogo and OIF Envoy Edem Kodjo
seem to have turned that page. Drame favors continuing with
the negotiation among the four Malagasy political "families,"
solving the current impasse over Ratsiraka's excessive
amnesty demands by placing the issue within the charter and
leaving much of it for later resolution. He has no direct
indication where Ouegraogo and Kodjo got their "new idea,"
but strongly suspects, as we do, that is was made in Paris.



6. (C) The next step in the negotiation process may be a
formal suspension declared by the mediators; Drame drafted a
press communique to that effect one week ago, but Ouedraogo
refused to approve it, while instead pushing forward with
talks that proved fruitless. Kodjo, who returned Friday, now
agrees with Drame that the talks are dead and should be
suspended, so such a declaration is likely now imminent. The
formal suspension would serve notice to the Malagasy that
they need to face their own responsibilities in this matter,
while also allowing the mediators a reprieve to visit SADC
members in southern Africa, and meet directly with
Ravalomanana in Johannesburg to seek better cooperation (and
more helpful statements and instructions) on his part. In
particular, Drame wants Ravalomanana to agree not to run in
the next presidential election, a commitment that would make
Rajoelina far less likely to run himself. Drame's view is
that the King of Swaziland remains a problem, as he has not
changed his view on the need for Ravalomanana to return to
run the country, and continues to wield influence as chair of
the SADC Troika. Drame, like us, has no read-out on the
meeting in Capetown one week ago of Zuma and Mswati; press
reports also suggest that Ravalomanana met with them both
there. In sum, the SADC position remains an unhelpful
outlier, reinforced by last week's feckless COMESA statement
also probably engineered by Ravalomanana.



7. (C) Action Request: In view of the above, we recommend
communication with the French -- in Paris, on the margins of
the Bongo funeral in Libreville, or by phone from Washington

-- to make the following points to appropriate French
interlocutors:

-- The USG remains concerned about the lack of a political
settlement in Madagascar, and continues to believe that a
consensual resolution through negotiations is the only way
forward.

-- While the negotiations are proving difficult and
time-consuming, we continue to support the AU and UN in their
efforts to craft a "Transition Charter" that would lead
consensually to elections as soon as possible.

-- As much as we want early elections, we would caution
against accepting anything less than a credibly consensual
way forward; it would be a mistake to abandon the negotiation
in favor of a hasty, less-then-consensual path toward
elections.

-- For the USG, eventual recognition of a legitimate
government in Madagascar will depend on credible elections.

-- If the preparation of elections is consensual, neutral and
inclusive, the USG plans to support those election
preparations politically and financially.

MARQUARDT