Madagascar general strike in support of Marc Ravolomanana, 2002


To unseat the ruler Admiral Didier Ratsiraka from the presidency and replacing him with the winner of majority votes in the December presidential election, Marc Ravolomanana.

Time period

January 28, 2002 to July 5, 2002



Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

Approximately 1 month

Notes on Methods

Third party nonviolent intervention occurred: nuns and other religious people tried to prevent an outbreak of violence by positioning themselves between Ravolomanana supporters and Ratsiraka supporters, singing hymns to calm them (3rd segment).


Marc Ravolomanana, mayor of Antananarivo


Not Known

External allies

Diplomats from U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Indonesia, European Union, and later, France for endorsing Marc Ravolomanana’s presidency (occurred after most campaigning had taken place)

Involvement of social elites

The Madagascar High Constitutional Court ordered a recount after the first round of elections in December and, toward the end of the campaign, announced Ravolomanana as the winner of the election; a peace deal was brokered by Senegal president Abdoulaye Wade.


President Ratsiraka and his supporters

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not Known

Campaigner violence

Ratsiraka supporters marched to Antananarivo to confront Ravolomanana supporters, which led to violence on both sides, resulting in up to 70 deaths, reports of torture, and disappearances on both sides

Repressive Violence

State of emergency and curfew declared but not enforced; the security forces maintained their neutrality. Ratsiraka supporters marched to Antananarivo to confront Ravolomanana supporters, which led to violence on both sides, resulting in up to 70 deaths, reports of torture, and disappearances on both sides





Group characterization

Citizens of Madagascar
presidential candidate Marc Ravolomanana and his supporters

Groups in 5th Segment

International diplomats

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Note: little information known about specifics of campaigner group characterization and joining order.

Segment Length

Approximately 1 month

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Amid continued violence, and refusing to accept the election results, Ratsiraka fled to Seychelles on July 5. Marc Ravolomanana would assume presidency until 2009. Violent conflict did arise among the candidates’ supporters leading to up to 70 deaths, reports of torture, and disappearances. However, Ravolomanan maintained economic shutdown and demonstrations for almost seven weeks, ultimately garnering and endorsement from major international actors. Further research should look into the role of the security forces during the conflict. As opposed to the 1991 strike, security forces remained largely neutral, claiming their role was protect citizens. It can be assumed that their neutral position helped facilitate the campaigners actions, and it would be interesting to see to what extent the security forces were influenced by the campaigners themselves over the span of Ratsiraka’s rule.

Ravolomanana’s campaign organization survived and carried over into government organization.

Even though significant opposition to Ratsiraka existed prior to the 2001 elections, support for Ravolomanana grew tremendously starting with the initial strike action, with protesters totaling almost one million in the streets according to some sources.

Database Narrative

Madagascar was officially proclaimed a colony of France in 1896, and gained independence in June 1960. For the first couple decades following independence, one-party rule and political turmoil, including violent and nonviolent struggle, characterized the country.

The tumultuous period brought Admiral Didier Ratsiraka to power, who practically ruled Madagascar from 1975 until the 2002 campaign. Ratsiraka faced increasing opposition during his presidency. Popular protests erupted in 1989 over alleged election fraud. At his inauguration, protesters clashed with security forces resulting in 75 causalities. Similar protest took place in 1991, during which 400,000 demonstrators demanding Ratsiraka’s resignation were fired on by presidential guards, killing approximately 130 people. The repression increased sympathy for the protesters, prompting a general strike in May 1991, forcing Ratsiraka to hold general elections. However, due to alleged corruption, Ratsiraka had regained the presidency by 1997.

In the December 2001 election, Marc Ravolomanana, who was the mayor of Antananarivo, a local entrepreneur millionaire, and the owner of the country’s largest food company, faced Ratsiraka for the presidency. Neither party secured a ‘simple majority’ and a second round of voting was scheduled to take place in March. However, Ravolomanana claimed that the results had been falsified, accusing Ratsiraka of fraud. The Constitutional Court ordered a recount. 

Demanding Ratsiraka’s resignation and refusing to take part in a runoff without a recount, Ravolomanana and supporters organized a general strike and series of demonstrations, which took hold of the country and the Antananarivo (the capital) on January 28, 2002. International flights were suspended and businesses, shops, and banks were closed in Madagascar’s largest general strike in history. Protesters filled the streets, claiming that a second round of voting was unnecessary. President Ratsiraka refused to allow a recount.

The crowds grew each day, with total counts reaching up to one million protesters. Ratsiraka declared martial law and appointed a military governor for the city. However, like the 1991 general strike, protesters defied the curfew and ‘state of emergency’. Outdoor ‘balls’ spread across the capital, with thousands of dancers flooding the streets. 

In early March, Ravolomanana and supporters mobilized large protests and took control of the capital, Antananarivo, seizing government ministries and manning barricades. Ratsiraka and supporters set up a rival capital in the city of Tamatave, set up roadblocks, and tried to starve Antananarivo of gasoline and other essentials.

In April, Ravolomanana announced his ‘cabinet’; civilians escorted the officials to their offices in Antananarivo. Security personnel stood by and watched, unable to take action because of the ‘sheer size of the opposition’s support’. Thousands of Ravolomanana supporters formed a human barricade around his residence, singing songs and holding vigils, pledging to block any attempt to arrest him.

After several weeks of pro-Ravolomanana demonstrations, Ratsiraka supporters marched to Antananarivo to confront the Ravolomanana supporters. The confrontation led to violence on both sides, the first occurrence of violence during the electoral contention, resulting in up to 70 deaths, reports of torture, and disappearances on both sides. Nuns and representatives from religious groups tried to prevent violence by positioning themselves between the opposing groups and singing hymns. Security forces maintained their neutrality, claiming that their role was to protect citizens.

Sometime toward the end of the conflict, a peace deal was brokered by Senegal president Abdoulaye Wade. Ravolomanana and Ratsiraka both initially signed, agreeing to accept the results of a recount, and in the meantime, Ravolomanana would accept Ratsiraka’s interim presidency. Ratsiraka also promised to end the blockade of Antananarivo. However, neither contender kept his word and the struggle continued. 

On May 6, the Constitutional Court announced that the recount indicated that Mr. Ravalomanana had indeed won with just over 50 percent, making him the country’s new president. The general strike and demonstrations had lasted nearly seven weeks.

In late June, the United States endorsed Mr. Ravalomanana as president. Later, diplomats from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, the European Union and Indonesia attended independence day celebrations indicating their support for the new president as well. Amid continued violence, and refusing to accept the election results, Ratsiraka fled to Seychelles on July 5. 

Marc Ravalomanana served as Madagascar’s president until spring 2009, when he resigned in the face of political opposition. 


Previous political struggle and 1991 general strike in Madagascar against Ratsiraka. (1)


George-William, Desmond. “‘Bite Not One Another’: Selected Accounts of Nonviolent Struggle in Africa.” University for Peace, Africa Programme; Nonviolent Transformation Of Conflict—Africa: 75-79. Web. 01 Apr 2011. <>.

"Madagascar." Philip's World Factbook 2008-2009. London: Philip's, 2008. Credo Reference. Web. 01 Apr 2011. <>.

"Madagascar general strike called off." BBC News 19 Mar 2002: Web. 1 Apr 2011. <>.

"Madagascar's two presidents, Vanilla revolution, A lesson for Zimbabwe, perhaps?" Economist 07 Mar 2002: Web. 2 Apr 2011. <>.

Slaughter, Barbara. "General strike in Madagascar." World Socialist Web Site 05 Feb 2002: Web. 01 Apr 2011. <>.

Swarns, Rachel. "Longtime Madagascar Leader Flees as Rival Gains." New York Times 06 Jul 2002: Web. 01 Apr 2011. <>.

"U.S. Declares a Winner in Disputed Election in Madagascar." New York Times 27 Jun 2002: Web. 01 Apr 2011. <>.

Additional Notes

Note: Security forces maintained their neutrality throughout the 2002 campaign claiming their role was to protect citizens, in contrast to the 1991 strike, where state repression led to many causalities. While security forces did not actively support one side of the struggle, generally, the 2002 campaign was impacted by their shift ‘toward the middle’ of the conflict.

Preliminary research and note taking done by George Lakey

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Zein Nakhoda 14/5/2011