Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brickyard Profile: Baby's First Coup

I've had an epiphany of sort about my writing...I really, really like to profile people who I find intriguing. Hence, I think it's time to formalize this process, start using trademark graphics (see below) and make the "Brickyard Profile" a regular feature of this site. Please give me some feedback on the comments in the comments section (good, bad, ugly), and maybe even suggest individuals (foreign or domestic) who you think could be highlighted. So, without further ado, here's our first "official" Brickyard profile - meet Andry Rajoelina.

To put it lightly, Andry Rajoelina doesn't look old enough to lead a revolution. Heck, he doesn't look old enough to shave. He is a little older than he appears, but at 34, the baby-faced former DJ still has six years until he can constitutionally become President of Madagascar. However, if one thing has become clear over the last few weeks, it's that Andry Rajoelina need not be troubled by petty laws and regulations - so it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that he did in fact become Madagascar's President yesterday. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly achieve his impressive feat legally.

Instead, Rajoelina's rise to power resulted from what could arguably be described as the biggest temper tantrum in recent memory. The mess started last month, when now-former president Marc Ravalomanana abruptly fired Rajoelina from his elected office as Mayor of Antannanarivo (the nation's capital). He had every right to be upset, and even to fight his dismissal, but few people would have envisioned what he did next. Instead of merely protesting his dismissal, Rajoelina launched a revolution. He told his followers that President Ravolomanana was a dictator, and that he was misspending public funds - and then on Monday he declared himself president of a new government.

With Rajoelina's people in the streets, and the military siding with the opposition, President Ravalomanana holed up in one of the presidential palaces. His supporters gathered outside and prepared for a confrontation, but Ravalomanana saw the writing on the wall (and the fact that the army had taken control of the main presidential palace) and offered hold a referendum on national leadership. Rajoelina did not think that an election was needed to determine the will of the people, so he refused the offer. Left with no options, the president resigned yesterday and handed power to the military, who immediately handed the presidency to Rajoelina. The takeover was complete

Some might call this a revolution, but I think it's a run-of-the-mill military coup. Rajoelina did not take power through his massive street protests (though they helped); he took power because the military decided to turn on President Ravalomanana. Andry Rajoelina may have rode a wave of popularity, but that does not change the fact that he is not only unelected, but constitutionally disqualified from the office he now holds. Far from exhibiting the traits of a democratic hero, he is showing the trademarks of a a budding egomaniac dictator. Luckily, he has promised elections in two years, but something tells me he will win easily (and probably unfairly) and go on to become the unchallenged leader of an undemocratic Madagascar.

Considering his age, charisma, and organizational ability, this man has the potential to lead his country for a very long time. Combine that with his excessive ego, his inexperience, and the fact Madagascar is already an extremely poor country - and it becomes clear that Andry Rajoelina has the potential to become the next Robert Mugabe if he wants to. However, before we get into any doomsday scenarios for Madagascar, we have to see if the boy king even stays in power. After all, the military turned on Ravalomanana, and they can just as easily turn on his successor.

Will Rajoelina become a major force, or will the world's youngest coup leader become the youngest person to be ousted in a coup? Only time will tell, but regardless of what happens Andry Rajoelina is definitely a man to watch.


  1. Very interesting and something I haven't heard of...thanks, Adam!

  2. Yipes! You're right, Adam: this guy sounds ominous for sure. Glad you're on top of it.