Revolutions: The Underage Leader of Madagascar

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Andry Rajoelina looks younger than he is, impressive considering the former DJ became president of Madgascar in 2009 at age 34. Madagascar’s constitution requires candidates to be at least 40, but the baby-faced leader, often called Andy, seized power during a confusing and bloody political crisis.

As a teenager, Andy became known around the capital, Antananarivo, as a popular disc jockey and at 19, he started his own event production company to organize and promote concerts. Sworn in as mayor of Antananarivo in 2008, Andy, 33 at the time, became vocal critic of the government headed by President Ravalomanana.

Andy was popular among the nation’s youth, who rallied around his accusations that Ravalomanana had become dictatorial and corrupt. In late January 2009, Andy took the unusual step to call for a general strike in the city he governed. It was the start of a strange and often violent political crisis.

Both sides held competing rallies. Andy boldly announced he would take over as president and shortly after, the actual president dismissed him from his office as mayor. On February 7, when it seemed that the movement was losing steam, security forces around the Presidential Palace fired upon a protest group and killed 50 demonstrators. Protesters were galvanized by the deaths and some of the army mutinied, declaring their opposition to violence against protesters and aligning themselves with Andy. In March, five days after rebelling army units surrounded the presidential palace and forced Ravalomanana to resign, they appointed Andy as leader.

Rallies continued but the groups had switched sides: now Ravalomanana and supporters of the ousted government decried Andy as a dictator that must be removed. Some military members rebelled against the new government.

More than four years have passed and Andy remains in power. Technically, he is still too young. The International Mediation Group, who is organizing the elections for late 2013 and trying to put an end to the crisis,  has declared Andy ineligible to run. Yet he continues to campaign.
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