By Chris Zumani Zimba
There is an interesting social movement campaign which started in Nigeria in 2016 and is now global, “Not Too Young to Run”. This movement aims to influence lawmakers and big politics to reduce age limit for youth to contest as parliamentarians, senators and presidents. This is commendable as ‘youth politicians’ are mainly ridiculed and restricted to political party youth wings, student movements and youth oriented civil society organizations. In this way, young people are generally blocked, not tried and tested in mainstream political leadership at higher or national level thereby impacting negatively on them. Generally, youth are traditionally perceived and commonly degraded as either ‘good political supporters’ or ‘upcoming future leaders’.
But few African young people in many countries have rejected and defiled this leadership stereotype and biased practice by distinguishing themselves as ripe national leaders at varying tender ages. In this article, I sample and discuss Andry Nirina Rajoelina-Madagascar as one of the empirical evidence and living political testimony for our topic today.
Andry Nirina Rajoelina is an accomplished businessman and politician who was born on 30th May 1974 in Madagascar from a relatively noble family. At the age of 19years, he started his career in the private sector, first organizing events on the Island (Live concerts), and then investing the advertising business (Injet, billboards and print) and the media (Viva, TV and radio).
At the age 33 in 2007, Rajoelina created and led the political association Tanora malaGasy Vonona (TGV), meaning “determined Malagasy youth”, and shortly afterward announced his candidacy to run for Mayor of Antananarivo. His very young age and public likeability in the capitial city became a lever to gain a quick popularity for Rajoelina throughout the nation. Rajoelina was elected on 12 December 2007 with 63.3% of the vote on a 55% voter turnout, beating TIM party incumbent Hery Rafalimanana and consequently sworn into office as such.
Following confrontations and public protests against President Ravalomanana, on 7 February, Andry Rajoelina organized a new rally during which the leaders of the orange movement declared the constitution of a High Transitional Authority and Andry Rajoelina as its president. In the protests, the presidential guards opened fire, killing 31 protesters, and wounding more than 200, a move which made the President to lose popular and Army support as he was widely blamed for ordering the shooting. When President Ravalomanana dissolved the government, resigned, and transferred the Presidential seal to a senior committee of the Army following the national crisis, on 18 March, the Army transferred power directly to Rajoelina, making him president of the High Transitional Authority (HAT).
Rajoelina was sworn in as President on 21 March at Mahamasina stadium before a crowd of 40,000 supporters at the age of 35 years, making him the youngest president in the country’s history and the youngest head of government in the world at that time. He ruled the country as President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar from 21 March 2009 to 25 January 2014, up until the general elections were held in 2013. After stepping down as President of the HAT in 2014, he remained head of the majority party, the MAPAR. Following the Presidential elections in November this years, Rajoelina led the first round vote with 39.23% of the vote with Ravalomanana, a man he ‘toppled’ with the support of the masses and army in 2009 coming second with 35.29% of the vote. As Madagascar preparing for a presidential rerun on 19th December, 2018, it is the battle of two rival former presidents in Rajoelina and Ravalomanana. In other words, Rajoelina is now either the first or second most politically powerful citizen on the island and has proven exceptional political leadership in Madagascar as a youth politician and businessman.
In conclusion, it clear that the political career and leadership journey of Rajoelina in Madagascar is extremely extraordinary especially for an African youth as he is a distinguished case of what contemporary young Africans can do in mainstream politics and national governance. While he cannot said be said to be a political liberator or freedom hero like Kenneth Kaunda, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Abdu Nasser, Martin Lurther King Junior, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela or Julius Mwalimu Nyerere, the fact remains that Rajoelian iss one of the best role models of African youth in politics and business, an accomplished African political leader and business elite from the province of young people, one of their kind and a good example for and among them.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles.