Interview with Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar
Q: In recent weeks, the governments of the United States and France recognized you and your government. What does this recognition mean for you, your relationship with these governments, and the future of Madagascar?
A: It’s very important. The Americans helped me a lot. The first recognition came from the Americans; they moved very quickly. France moved quickly after that. I had a good relationship with the States [before the recognition]. We’re waiting for the decision for the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) about the accord in Dakar…
Dakar II was not so successful. The Americans took the decision [to officially recognize the Ravalomanana government, on June 26] alone. No decision [came] from France. That’s why France is coming here to fix this problem of Madagascar and in part to recognize my power. [Editor’s note: France recognized the Ravalomanana government on July 3]. For me, the most important thing is that they work with me. [The recognition from France] is not the same as the recognition from the United States. The recognition from the United States is clear and simple [but France put many conditions for recognition]. During the celebrations of Independence Day, the French ambassador didn’t attend…
Anyway, now I’m very, very happy. It’s time to look out for the future. That’s why I’m very happy to work with both countries. In a few hours, the Germans will come [to Ravalomanana’s office]. It’s very important to work with the bigger countries such as the United States, France, and Germany. Just now, I received the Algerian diplomat. I have to make good relationships with every country.
Q: The role of the church was a very important one during the elections. Do you see the church, together with CRS and other relief and development organizations, contributing to the normalization of the country, and how?
A. Yes. The church was involved so much during the election, and for my support. Now, we decided yesterday, the World Bank will [give] money to the Malagasy state and I will ask them to help to do something for the church. I said to them, we need to develop quickly in Madagascar, we need to work with existing organizations in Madagascar… For example, next week, [I’m sending] 60 young Catholics to Toronto [for World Youth Day]… I support them. The church here is very important, that is my belief.
Q. Do you see the church and the government walking hand-in-hand towards a solution?
A: Yes. To work with the church is very good [in the areas of education, civic education].
Q: Several months ago, you had said that you might hold a referendum to ask people if they want you as president. Do you still plan to follow through with that referendum?
A: Now it is finished. If we develop a country, we need to invite businessmen to come here. If we re-hold the election, they won’t come here... It’s finished. When I made a tour of every province, they accepted [me]. It’s not time to talk about the referendum. It’s finished. We will look for [legislative] elections; President Bush asked me to do it before the end of the year… Yesterday, I named the senators.
Q: What is your vision for the future of Madagascar?
A: I want to develop this country, because I’m sad to see poor Malagasy. I’m proud that I can do something for my country. That’s why in two to four years, I would like to make a big change for the Malagasy life and the country. I’m sure I can work with everybody. To develop a country, it is not possible to work alone – I have to call everybody. That’s why I opened my Cabinet a few days ago. It was a quick decision.
Q: You had mentioned earlier about bringing business to Madagascar. What sectors in the economy can attract business?
A: A lot of types of business can come here. On the 26th of July, we will make a big conference in Paris and we’ll call all the businessmen around the world with the World Bank and the European Union and the American business – because I have good contact with businessmen in America – they will all come… We will start to improve the economy we have here. That’s why I organized this big conference in Paris...
For the Americans, they are interested in mining. I think they will invest $1 billion… They will come! And in the export processing zones, the Gap [and other American companies will come]. Now, the Minister for Telecommunications is in the U.S. I called some experts from America to help me. I asked some advisers on the management of the country [to come on the 20th of this month [July].