The Department of State has authorized the departure (aka: evacuation) of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo. The ongoing spate of violence has Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana pitted against the former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina. Since the power tussle started in January, 130 lives had been lost and many more had been wounded.
The Embassy’s Warden Message dated March 11 has the following:
“Due to the unstable political situation in Madagascar, the U.S. Embassy has authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of Embassy employees. Additionally the Peace Corps has decided to send all Madagascar-based Peace Corps volunteers to South Africa and temporarily suspend their Madagascar program. At this time, the embassy is encouraging non-emergency staff and family members to depart while commercial air is still readily available. We encourage all Americans in Madagascar to monitor the situation closely and consider departing the country while commercial air is still operating normally.”
Read the whole thing here.
A new travel warning (pdf) states that since January 2009, Madagascar has been experiencing escalating political demonstrations including violent clashes between government forces and supporters of the former mayor of Antananarivo. Looting, and the burning of residences and businesses have occurred. While American citizens have not been targeted to date, the Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo due to the ongoing unrest and security concerns. The Department of State advises U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to Madagascar at this time. American citizens already in Madagascar should carefully consider the dangers of remaining. Those who do choose to remain despite this warning should continue to maintain a high level of vigilance and a low profile.
Today’s issue of The Guardian also quoted the US ambassador to the Indian Ocean island, Niels Marquardt with a warning after the ousting of the country’s army chief: "I note with a great deal of concern and a great deal of sadness that Madagascar is nearly on the verge of civil war."
Its wiki page indicates that Madagascar's long isolation from the neighboring continents has resulted in a unique mix of plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world; some ecologists refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent". Of the 10,000 plants native to Madagascar, 90% are found nowhere else in the world.
This is not the first time that Antananarivo has been evacuated. I think it had been evacuated 2-3 times previously for civil unrest. Does not make it easier for folks leaving or for those staying behind. Stay safe guys!
Photo of Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar from wikipedia.