|President of Madagascar|
6 May 2002 – 17 March 2009
|Preceded by||Didier Ratsiraka|
|Succeeded by||Andry Rajoelina (as President of the High Transitional Authority)|
12 December 1949 |
|Political party||I Love Madagascar|
|Religion||Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar|
Marc Ravalomanana (Malagasy: [raˌvaluˈmananə̥]) (born 12 December 1949) is a Malagasy politician who was the President of Madagascar from 2002 to 2009. A member of the Merina ethnic group, he first rose to prominence as the founder and CEO of the vast dairy conglomerate TIKO, later launching successful wholesaler MAGRO and several additional companies. After founding the Tiako Iarivo political party he successfully ran for the position of mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo, holding the position from 1999 to 2001.
In August 2001 he announced his candidacy as an independent in the December 2001 presidential election. He then took office as President in 2002 amidst a dispute over the results of the election in which he successfully pressed his claim to have won a majority in the first round. Under the leadership of Jacques Sylla, Ravalomanana's Prime Minister from 2002 to 2007, the political party Tiako iMadagasikara was founded in 2002 to support Ravalomanana's presidency and came to dominate legislative and local elections. He was re-elected in December 2006, again with a majority in the first round.
Ravalomanana resigned under pressure in March 2009 following popular uprisings that had begun several months earlier under the leadership of Andry Rajoelina, then mayor of Antananarivo, in a power transfer viewed by the international community as a coup d'état. Ravalomanana currently lives in exile in South Africa and remains active in negotiations between current head of state Rajoelina, and former heads of state Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, to resolve the ongoing political crisis.
Early years 
The youngest of eight siblings, Marc Ravalomanana was born on 12 December 1949 to a farming family of humble means in the village of Imerinkasinina, 20 kilometers east of Antananarivo. His parents are part of the Merina ethnic group, the island's largest and most politically prominent. The Ravalomanana family tomb is outside the historic walls of the village, a placement that would typically indicate the family's origins lie with the hova (commoners' caste), rather than the andriana — the traditional ruling caste among the Merina that continues to exert considerable influence over political affairs in modern Madagascar. (As Marc Ravalomanana's national prominence increased, ambiguities around his family's caste origins became a source of speculation in Malagasy media, with rumors emerging that the family was indeed andriana but had merely shifted the location of the tomb – details that eventually gained national importance in light of the traditional legitimacy accorded to leaders stemming from the andriana class among the Merina.)
From a young age he regularly attended the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), a Reformed Protestant church and, with 2.5 million adherents, the most important religious association in Madagascar. As a youth he sang in the choir and later taught catechism.
After completing his studies at a public primary school he attended the Swedish missionary-run collège (lower secondary school) in Ambatomanga. There he met his future wife, Lalao Rakotonirainy. The couple wed in 1974 and their marriage produced four children.
Upon completing his studies at the collège, Ravalomanana and his family began making and selling homemade yogurts, a common artisanal product in the highlands region. Collecting milk on his bicycle from farmers in neighboring towns, he gradually increased his production and clientele with insights gained from NGO-sponsored entrepreneurship trainings in Sweden and Germany, and business studies in Denmark underwritten by the Danish Ambassador. By the end of the 1970s, Ravalomanana's dairy business employed five salaried staff members. Ravalomanana solicited a loan from the Agence Française de Développement to further expand his business, but this request was denied, souring his view of France. His subsequent request to the World Bank for 1.5 million US dollars was approved, and in 1982 at age 33 he founded the Tiko company. The representative of the World Bank to Madagascar at the time, José Broffman, secured the loan with exceptionally favorable reimbursement conditions that enabled Ravalomanana to sell his products at a lower cost than other small dairy producers, gradually putting his most significant competitors out of business. Broffman later left his post at the World Bank to become a principal investor in the company, joined by private investors from South Africa, Germany and the United States. As Tiko continued to grow, the entrepreneur began incorporating imported ingredients such as powdered milk from South Africa (constituting 80% of the composition of Tiko dairy products) and surplus butter from Europe, further improving the profitability of his business and enabling additional diversification. Tiko Group first concentrated uniquely on the production of dairy products before expanding into fruit juices, ice cream, cooking oil and carbonated beverages.
Political relationships were cultivated by Ravalomanana to facilitate the continued growth of Tiko in spite of an economic climate non-conducive to free enterprise under the Socialist administration of Didier Ratsiraka. Early support in the 1980s came from the Supreme Counselor of the Revolution, Manandafy Rakotonirina, and then-Minister of Finance, Rakotovao Razakaboana. In the mid-1990s, the impeachment of the first democratically elected president, Albert Zafy, placed Prime Minister Norbert Ratsirahonana as interim head of state. Ratsirahonana ran unsuccessfully against Ratsiraka and Zafy in the 1997 presidential election, a campaign to which Ravalomanana provided significant financial contributions in return for tax exemptions on his edible oil products for a period of five years. The profits he consequently earned were reinvested to create the Magro wholesale company in 1998. A number of lawsuits have been filed over Ravalomanana's business practices, including a court judgment on the eve of the 2001 presidential election, but all were either dismissed or ended in an out-of-court settlement; none resulted in a criminal conviction.
At its height during the period of Ravalomanana's presidency, Tiko provided direct salaried employment to between 1,000 and 3,000 staff, and indirect employment to over 10,000. The group was the largest dairy producer in the country and a leader in the national agribusiness sector. By 2001, over a dozen principal warehouses throughout the country enabled widespread distribution of Tiko products to urban and rural areas, with a flagship warehouse in the Akorandrano neighborhood of Antananarivo. The Tiko slogan printed on many of the group's products, Vita Malagasy ("Made in Madagascar"), reflects Ravalomanana's nationalism and vision for strong production capacity for quality goods to be distributed on national and international markets. His drive to achieve this vision for Madagascar's industries would later be reflected during his presidency in policies that favored and protected Malagasy producers over importers of locally available products.
Mayor of Antananarivo 
In 1999, Ravalomanana decided to enter himself as an independent candidate in the Antananarivo mayoral election rather than finance a representative from another party. His principal opponent, former Prime Minister Guy Willy Razanamasy of the AREMA party, suffered from low popularity, leading Ratsiraka to tacitly support Ravalomanana's candidature against the representative of his own party. By contrast, Ravalomanana was an unknown, attracting attention primarily for his considerable success in employment and wealth creation through Tiko, and his esteemed role as Vice President of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), which was vocal in its support for the candidate. Supporters among Ravalomanana's high level Tiko staff established a group to promote his campaign, which he named Tiako Iarivo ("I Love Antananarivo"). In the municipal elections held on 14 November 1999, Ravalomanana was elected mayor of Antananarivo, receiving 45% of the votes.
Upon being elected mayor, Ravalomanana initiated major projects to renovate and clean up the capital city. He obtained funds from international donors to establish garbage collection and disposal systems, restore dilapidated infrastructure such as roads and marketplaces and replant public gardens. During his tenure, construction in the capital increased sharply, with twelve new supermarkets constructed in two years. Ravalomanana launched an initiative to install or repair street lights throughout the city to improve nighttime safety. He also increased the number of police officers on the streets, leading to a drop in crime.
Presidential election of 2001 
On 5 August 2001, in front of the FJKM church in his village of birth, Ravalomanana announced his intent to run for President in the election to be held later that year on 16 December. His campaign promoted his image as a self-made man who would draw upon his business savvy to develop the country, also playing upon his relative youth (then aged 52) and his non-alliance with the elderly "political dinosaurs" who had dominated politics over the previous three decades. His humble origins as a village farmer inspired support among rural voters, who made up over four-fifths of the population. He was also seen as the embodiment of the kind of meritocracy many voters wished to see established in Madagascar in place of corrupt power networks dominated by nepotism. The Counsel of Christian Churches of Madagascar (FFKM) rallied behind Ravalomanana, whose electoral slogan was "Don't be afraid, but have faith." During a BBC interview, the candidate claimed to have received counsel and support from the mayor of Baltimore and a director of former US President Clinton's campaign.
Ravalomanana's announcement sparked retaliatory actions by the Ratsiraka administration, resulting in frequent defamatory attacks in the press and a court judgment fining him 300 billion Malagasy francs (55.6 million Euros) in unpaid back taxes, and two other lawsuits in relation to his management of Tiko which were later settled out of court. These attacks were denounced by spokesmen for Ravalomanana's campaign support network, Tiako iMadagasikara (TIM), and in speeches the candidate delivered in urban and rural areas across the island, with travel made possible by his considerable personal wealth and the airplane and seven distribution helicopters registered to Tiko to reach urban and remote rural areas alike. Tiko distribution channels were also used to distribute posters, baseball caps, tee-shirts and other materials to promote the Ravalomanana campaign.
October 2001 polls showed Ravalomanana ahead of Ratsiraka. Following the December election, official results put Ravalomanana in first place, with 46%, against Ratsiraka's 40%; without a majority, a run-off would be required between the two. Ravalomanana, however, claimed to have won a majority in the first round, and he refused to participate in a run-off, instead demanding that the High Constitutional Court review the votes. Ratsiraka's supporters then blockaded the capital, which Ravalomanana's supporters controlled. Ravalomanana declared himself president on 22 February 2002. After a recount, on 29 April 2002 the High Constitutional Court pronounced Ravalomanana the winner of an absolute majority in the first round of the election, and he was sworn in on 6 May. Ravalomanana dispatched soldiers to bring pockets of resistance under control, with incidents of unrest continuing until Ratsiraka fled into exile on 5 July 2002 after losing control of most of the country's provinces.
First term 
Upon election to the presidency, Ravalomanana enacted a series of new laws, policies and reforms that sought to efface remaining traces of Ratsiraka's socialist ideology and replace it with a firmly capitalist, market-driven economic environment. In a break with tradition, the new head of state moved away from reliance on its principal trading partner, France, and cultivated relationships with partners such as Germany, the United States and South Korea as part of his strategy for Madagascar's economic development.
Key achievements during the Ravalomanana presidency include a largely successful fight against low-level corruption, the strengthening of state institutions particularly including the judiciary, and legal reforms to improve human rights, civil liberties and the business climate in the country. Consequently, the country's economy grew at an average annual rate of 7% throughout his presidency. Under his administration, hundreds of kilometers of roads were paved in formerly isolated rural areas. Dramatic improvements in the education and health sectors were also achieved under his administration.
After being elected president in 2002, Marc Ravalomanana remained a prominent player in the private sector. The 2003 privatisation of SINPA, the state agricultural corporation, and SOMACODIS, the national trading corporation, provided Ravalomanana the opportunity to purchase both entities, which he incorporated under Tiko. He also created a public roads construction company, Asa Lalana Malagasy.
The benefits of economic growth during the Ravalomanana administration were not evenly distributed, leading to higher costs of living for all Malagasy and a deepening poverty among much of the population while relatively fewer were able to increase their wealth. Detractors indicate a decline in purchasing power and dramatic inflation early in Ravalomanana's presidency as evidence of a failure to reduce poverty. Ravalomanana's critics remarked that the greatest beneficiary of his reforms and policies was the president himself, giving the example of road construction projects that enabled Tiko to distribute more efficiently in addition to the farmers and other small businesspeople the initiative was designed to benefit. Furthermore, his own companies tended to be awarded most government contracts for which they bid, although this occurred transparently and in all legality due to a weak legal framework around conflict of interest. Critics also condemned his tendency to make unilateral decisions and disregard the views or feelings of his entourage, a number of whom would go on to resign or be dismissed and join an opposition movement that had gained considerable strength by late 2007. On 18 November 2006, Ravalomanana's jet was forced to divert from Madagascar's capital during a return trip from Europe following reports of a coup underway in Antananarivo and shooting near the airport, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
Second term 
Ravalomanana ran for a second term in the presidential election held on 3 December 2006. According to official results, he won the election with 54.79% of the vote in the first round; his best results were in Antananarivo Province, where he received the support of 75.39% of voters. He was sworn in for his second term on 19 January 2007. He oversaw revisions to the World Bank-approved national development strategy paper, renamed the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP), which was to guide national development policy decisions in the medium term. As reflected in its slogan, "Madagascar Naturally," sustainable development and conservation were underlying principles in the new development strategy.
Confrontation with Rajoelina 
On 31 January 2009, following a week of political protests in Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, then mayor of Antananarivo, announced he was taking control of the government saying a request would be put to parliament for Ravalomanana immediate resignation from the presidency. The African Union (AU) immediately warned Rajoelina that it would not accept an unconstitutional power grab in Madagascar: "It's totally forbidden to take power by non-constitutional means."
Ravalomanana responded by dismissing Rajoelina from the office of mayor, citing a law which allows the government to remove officials who fail to do their job.
On 26 January, a number of people were burned to death while attempting to loot a commercial space set alight by protesters. On 7 February 2009, an opposition rally was held with 20,000 in attendance. Following the lead of opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, the crowd started to march toward the president's office in downtown Antananarivo, even though that was commonly known as a red zone. As the demonstrators tried to enter the presidential palace the presidential guards opened fire, killing at least 30 people and leaving dozens injured. By doing so, Ravalomanana became the third president (after his predecessors Didier Ratsiraka and Philbert Tsiranana) in recent Malagasy history to allow the defence forces to shoot at the crowd; Andry Rajoelina would become the fourth president to authorize such action at a demonstration led by Ravalomanana supporters several months later. After the violent clash, Ravalomanana addressed the public on national television urging them to remain calm.
Two weeks of extreme tensions followed between the two rival political camps in the capital, with Ravalomanana applying force based on the constitutional grounds of being the supreme leader of the armed forces. He later addressed the people, confessed having made mistakes, and promised to listen to the grievances of the protesters.
|Wikinews has related news: Madagascar President resigns, unclear rule in Antananarivo|
On 16 March the army seized the Ambohitsorohitra presidential palace in the centre of Antananarivo. Ravalomanana was not in the palace at the time. The following day Ravalomanana resigned, transferring his powers to a military council loyal to himself, headed by Vice-Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson. However, a mutinous faction of military leaders immediately declared military support for the transfer of presidential authority to Rajoelina. Ravalomanana fled to Swaziland.
The European Union, amongst other international entities, has refused to recognise the new government, due to it being installed by force. The African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community both criticised the forced resignation of Ravalomanana.
Since coming to power, Rajoelina's HAT has pursued legal action against Ravalomanana. On 2 June 2009, Ravalomanana was fined 70 million US dollars (42 million British pounds) and sentenced to four years in prison for alleged abuse of office which, according to HAT Justice Minister Christine Razanamahasoa, included the December 2008 purchase of a presidential jet worth $60 million. Razanamahasoa claimed Ravalomanana "mixed public interests with his personal interests". The former head of state was in exile in South Africa at the time, having been prevented from returning to Madagascar the previous month. Additionally, on 28 August, Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to hard labour for life for his role in the protests and ensuing deaths. An arrest warrant was issued for him, General Heriniaina Roelina and Colonel Anatole Ramlamboarison. Ravalomanana's Tiko Group has likewise faced heavy pressure from the new transitional government, which in April 2009 demanded that the company pay 35 million US dollars in back taxes or risk being shut down.
Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were requested by the Southern African Development Community to renounce participation in the 2013 Malagasy presidential elections in order to hasten an end to the ongoing political crisis. On 10 December 2012, Ravalomanana announced that he would not participate in the elections, and encouraged Rajoelina to follow suit in line with SADC recommendations.
Personal life 
Ravalomanana is known for his fervent Christian faith. As a young adult he gradually took on increasingly responsible leadership roles within his church community, eventually serving as head layman and Vice-President of the FJKM. In 2005, he was quoted as saying that he "dream[s] of a Christian nation", a vision that critics considered a violation of the constitution, which described the state as secular. A 2007 constitutional referendum removed this descriptor, among other changes. While Ravalomanana enjoyed strong support from the FJKM and other church organizations early in his political career, these organizations placed increasing pressure on him over time, viewing his policies as inadequately effective in reducing poverty across the island.
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- Honorary Doctorate of Law from Abilene Christian University of Texas in 2008
- Honorary Doctorate from University of Antananarivo in 2007
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|Mayor of Antananarivo
|President of Madagascar
as President of the High Transitional Authority