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Erdogan wearing Tsiranana shoes to ruin?

About half a century ago, in April 1971 to be exact, Madagascar’s first republic under President Philibert Tsiranana, set its foot on a dangerous one-year trek to ruin. This was about a decade after the independence. It was all about smallholder farmers and students taking to the streets and in one year (in May 1972), President Tsiranana called it quits. He lost his tensile strength to hold on to power. He resigned.

Factors at play were a dominant Malagasy political party losing vision, leaders taking more interest in pursuit of personal – usually politically motivated—interests and concoction of a perceived enemy worth pitching against the public for strategic purposes.

And in a faulty reaction to the internally brewed state of affairs, the Tsiranana administration resorted to arrests and making decrees. Little did it know that in this way it had charted a collapse schedule, just as they do it in the aviation industry with every flight.

Recorded in the Malagasy political development history as the Rotaka, it all began as a farmer and student protest against what was taken as Tsiranana’s repressions. Protest series went on to grow into a popular uprising (then seen as a rebellion by those in power) and, out of the ordinary, took root at a university’s school of medicine – not political science and economics. In a way, the rule of Tsiranana assumed the state of disease worth combating.

In Tsiranana’s and ruling party short-sightedness, the response was simple. This was temporary closure of the university, showing students the exit gates, slamming a ban on their meetings and arresting any protestors on site. To the contrary, this ‘prescription’ led to bad (in fact lethal) side effects for the government.

After media reports, other civic groups came on board. High and lower schools caught the anti-Tsiranana fever and held solidarity protests. The scope also grew wider. Besides Tsiranana, there was pressure for curriculum change and expulsion of French teachers.

Against this background, how many students could the Tsiranana administration arrest without having to turn schools into prisons? Slowly, as they say in literature, the centre could no longer hold. In the ultimate course, President Tsiranana stepped down and a transitional government was established under an army general.

Indeed, no power, whatsoever, can defeat the cause of the common people and students combined. For, both groups in society normally have nothing to lose in any struggle except repression. In Madagascar today, the most popular cultural music troupe, Mahaleo, was a result of protests that led to the fall o f Tsiranana. It was formed by High Scholl students.  This year in May, it will be half a centenarian. Tsiranana went down. People’s wishes are as live as ever before. Available literature says Mahaleo music exposes contemporary political and social issues and invites listeners to identify their own solutions.

Now, as I followed the trend of events in Turkey, my memory took me back to the days of Tsiranana’s Madagascar which were current affairs to me at that time. Today, that is history worth sharing. Could what is currently taking place in Turkey under the Erdogan and his AKP ruling party have a leaning towards what happened in Madagascar in yester decades? Could Erdogan have stepped in Tsiranana’s shoes on the path to ruin? 

Consider the following trend of events.

There is little doubt that Turkey’s dominant and ruling party has lost its course from the implied set of justice and development and that its torch bearer, President Erdogan, has actually abandoned the twin publicly declared reference points.    

Without having to dig too far into Turkish history affairs, what can we just scrape on the surface?  

  • The Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement ambiguous condemnations aside, pressures have been imposed upon all individuals, especially Mr. Omaer Faruk Gergerlioglu, for his tireless efforts for human rights and institutions that are struggling to this end.

Question: If you pressurize those in search of human rights, on whose behalf or what are you working for?

  • Female university students have been subjected to strip searches (twice in five days!) by security forces. Of all comments, AKP Group Chair Ozlem Zengin tells the world: “So far, I have never seen a deputy who terrorizes the Parliament as much as Mr. Gergerlioglu” (for raising this in parliament).

Questions: Is it conceivable that a leader worth the morals and authenticity should question the character of anyone standing against inhuman acts? What have security forces to establish beyond underpants of female students and, twice in five days for that matter? Where does the shame lie? What does the Quran say about respect for women, comprising our sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers and wives? 

  • Subsequently, Usak Police Chief said: “We are here to fight with these teachers who slander us, these sanguinaries, and blood shedders … We will not let them breathe in our country.”

Question: The tone and far reaching implications of the language ignored, to whom does the country of Turkey belong?

  • Interior Minister was prompted into saying: “Indeed this man is a terrorist. We have filed numerous complaints… I’m calling on the Judiciary to do whatever is necessary about him.”

Questions: Is this further proof of the fact that the separation of powers in Turkey has since gone to the archives? In the present circumstance, does this also mean that under the new ‘governance’ system, the Judiciary receives orders from the Interior Ministry? Is terrorism absolute or relative in Turkey?    

  • Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office later announced that an investigation was launched against Gergerlioglu and the people who voiced their reactions on the social media.

Questions: What is the use of conducting an investigation on somebody who has already been condemned? How does one insist on weighing a carcass by live weight? Isn’t such an effort place and time barred? When was the Turkish Constitution revised in as far as people’s freedoms are concerned?

  • According to the World Ulghur Congress, opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has vowed to help the Ulghur community trace their missing relatives by staging protests at the Chinese Consulate in the Turkish Commercial Capital.  There is an apparent conspiracy between the Chinese and Turkish governments to pursue selfish interests at the expense of the Ulghur Muslim minority people living in the two countries.

Question: What does Turkey gain in exposing members of the 50,000 Ulghur Muslim community it hosts to the risk of falling victim to Chinese government almost one-year repression of this Muslim minority group? Does Turkey have only-the-self-to-celebrate, even at the expense of fellow Muslim community members? Turkey was once a big supporter of the Ulghur community. What has suddenly gone wrong?

Symbolically, all that sort of cover what made the Malagasy farmers partake in the anti-Tsiranana series of protests. What about the student component? Past stories about closure of universities, sacking, arrests, and persecution of teachers and professors we know of. But there is what we can call a current burning issue.

In an effort to take stronger hold, President Erdogan appointed an ally to become a rector at Boğaziçi University, one of Turkey’s highly respected institutions of higher education. This was a miscalculation. Immediately this gave rise to protests with students taking to the streets and respected professors resigning. Security forces, of course, had to come in, attracting further condemnations from inside and outside Turkey. As the Interior Ministry went ahead giving crafting as to what was happening and bringing in the component of terrorism, the Foreign Ministry laboured to combat foreign condemnations. But, along the Malagasy line of experience, the damage is already done.


As effects of earlier protests began to subside, a fresh incident occurred, prompting protestors to reconvene at the campus. How does one connect the campus issue with unfurling Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, picture with an LGBT flag during violent riots in Kadikoy district? In a clash with the police, more than 100 people were arrested. Do you know on what charges? Holding an unauthorized rally and resisting police arrest.

The Boğaziçi University crisis is flowing over. Can’t Erdogan’s manner and matter of action be declared sick? Is it authentic? What is likely to happen in such circumstances of a clear loss of a sense of belonging on the side of the country leadership?

Doesn’t Turkey no longer look under Erdogan to be still in possession of a defined public order? Who will help bring back conscience in the leadership? Turkey should not be left to step in the shoes the likes of Madagascar under Tsiranana, fifty years ago. It needs a moral solution.

Violations of or infringement on human rights cannot be claimed to be part of any country’s internal affairs domain. As I was concluding this article, news arrived on my desk about the European Union saying that the detention of student protestors in Turkey was “deeply worrying”. Would Turkey be right in hitting back at the EU “for interference in its internal affairs”? Definitely not. 

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.


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