Is Rajoelina’s dual French citizenship an extended war between Russia and France?
In June 2023, documents leaked revealing that Madagascar’s President, Andry Rajoelina, holds dual French nationality. This revelation has since sparked a debate on Rajoelina’s eligibility to seek re-election given that the law bars anyone with an acquired citizenship of a foreign country to contest after automatically losing their Malagasy nationality. Rajoelina was naturalised by decree in November 2014 by then French prime minister Manuel Valls.
The secret known is that the leaked documents on social media are a smoke screen between the two countries namely; France and Russia fighting for a controlling stake in the Indian Ocean Island state. The French have for long been the puppet masters of Madagascar given that the island state is their former colony for over 60 years. With the rise of Russia’s influence in Africa, especially among the former French colonies, Madagascar finds itself in a position of a battle ground for economic and ideological interests between pro-democracy France and authoritarian Russia.
Russia’s growing influence in Africa in the last decade has seen majority former French colonies shift alliances and embrace Russia extended arm of disguised brotherhood. Russia’s strategy in Africa has progressed beyond trading in arms and security collaborations to supporting authoritarian leaders and manipulation of elections to influence outcomes.
Russia’s playbook of manipulating politics in Africa is evident in Madagascar having had a hand in installing Rajoelina in 2018 and Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina failed re-election bid in 2018.
The secret known is that Russia is getting too close to Madagascar to the comfort of France, the former colonial master. Indeed, Russia’s interest in Madagascar is the access to natural resources graphite and chromium. Already, the Russians control 70% of the stakes in chromium in this Indian Ocean Island state.
Rajoelina’s presidential bid for the second term is seen as Russia’s extension and consolidation in Madagascar, given that Russia is not willing to let go of their protégé who has handed them access to resources. Russia will do whatever it takes to install Rajoelina for another term. This is what the French and their allies have to fight as African regimes’ interest in Russia as an ally grows.
Given the power play between Putin’s Russia and France with its western allies, it is difficult to put it past the French schemes to leak on social media Rajoelina’s dual French nationality status as an attempt to discredit his eligibility for a re-election. At the time when Rajoelina attained French citizenship he was in bed with the French, a position that has since changed.
The secret known is that France has everything to gain from this storm in which the Malagasy people feel betrayed and accused Rajoelina of not being transparent about his nationality. The duo French citizenship of Rajoelina has remained a secret for almost a decade and the timing to leak this information is suspicious as the country heads into the 2023 elections where Rajoelina is expected to contest.
It remains to be seen if the pressure from citizens will lead to anything of benefit to the French in tilting the scales of power. Rajoelina is an authoritarian leader with less regard to the constitution and with the backing of autocratic Putin.