Punish regime, not people

AS the Peace and Security Council meets I am writing as former president of Madagascar to ask you to focus on the deteriorating situation in my country.

AS the Peace and Security Council meets I am writing as former president of Madagascar to ask you to focus on the deteriorating situation in my country.

Madagascar is already one of the poorest countries in the world. World Bank figures released on February 1 2010 showed that last year economic growth in Madagascar collapsed to just 0,6 percent (compared with 7 percent in 2008), driven largely by the actions of the illegal regime.

All sectors of the economy and society are affected. To give just one example: This month the Unicef representative for Madagascar, Bruno Maes, expressed concern about a huge decrease in the education budget of 20 to 30 percent, as a result of which "funds and materials are not reaching schools". Madagascar cannot afford to jeopardise its future in this way.

I am grateful for the mediation sponsored by the AU and for its determination to ensure free and fair elections, but as time passes, life becomes more unbearable for the Malagasy people.

I know the AU is going to consider measures designed to bring about the restoration of democracy. I welcome this. But can I impress on you that any measures must be designed to bring pressure to bear on the illegal regime and not to worsen theplight of the general populace.

The US government has already suspended Madagascar from the African Growth and Opportunity Act that allows African states to export some goods to the US free of duty and on which around one in four Malagasy jobs depends.

This is already causing significant hardship to those involved in the textile industry, one of Madagascar's major export sectors. I now understand that the European Union is reviewing my country's involvement in the Cotonou Agreement with a view to withdrawing trade concessions.

While it is a great comfort to me that the international community is seeking a solution to Madagascar's political crisis by pressing for free and fair elections and the restoration of a functioning democratic government, I am deeply concerned that poorly targeted economic sanctions will cause additional suffering to my countrymen and might provoke a humanitarian crisis.

I call on the AU to ensure that any new sanctions are carefully targeted against the illegal regime itself and do not harm ordinary people. They have already suffered enough at the hands of the coup leadership

Marc Ravalomanana,

Antananarivo

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