Madagascar.

Depending on how involved you are in world affairs, you may or may not have heard about what’s currently going on in Madagascar. Unfortunately, the news has been pretty lax in covering this African island nation’s recent coup d’etat and political uprisings.

Since March 21st of this year, thirty-four year old former mayor, leftist politician and television station owner Andry Rajoelina has been sworn in as president of the Malagasy government (government of Madagascar). Rajoelina came to office after a coup toppled the elected president Marc Ravalomanana from his term, forcing his exile to Swaziland. Rajoelina plans to change the country’s constitutional requirement that a president be a minimum of 40 years old and has claimed that he will hold elections within 2 years time. He has spouted words of democracy, while dismissing the elected Ravalomanana’s calls for a referendum to test his support among the population to help stop the uprising.

In December of 2008, Rajoelina’s outspoken criticism of Ravalomanana led to the closure of Rajoelina’s Viva TV for “security” reasons after a 45 minute broadcast of former president Didier Ratsiraka called for a coup against Ravalomanana. This move was condemned by Reporters Without Borders and instigated massive protests and violence in the country. Rajoelina is said to have called for more anti-government protests after the worst day of street violence in years, only increasing the violence and anger.

Canada’s interests in Madagascar represent the largest category of foreign investment in the country, surpassing French interests with almost $3 billion dollars invested. Toronto’s Sherritt International holds the largest stake in the world’s biggest nickel mine in Ambatovy, as well as large stakes in the country’s cobalt mines. Rajoelina vows his new administration will review all foreign investment contracts to ensure Madagascar is receiving a fair share of the revenues. Somehow, despite the political violence that has been happening in 2009, Madagascar moved up 7 rankings in the World Bank’s 2009 “Doing Business Report” from 151st in 2008 to 144th out of 181 countries.

American Exxon Mobil has operations in Madagascar drilling for oil offshore. Several mining companies have been exploring Madagascar looking for gold, gemstones, nickel and bauxite. The British based mining company Rio Tinto has opened a $775 million ilmenite mine in the south of the country for the production of titanium. Huge investment has recently been poured into the country, almost all for extraction purposes.

Canada has responded to the current political crisis in Madagascar, not by condemning the actions as the European Union, African Union, South African Development Community, United States and many other organizations and countries have; but by appealing for calm and dialogue. Canada did not recognize the current political actions as a coup, nor have they stopped aid or suggested sanctions on the country. Perhaps this has to do with the high level of Canadian investment in Madagascar, but so far, Canada has remained rather tight-lipped on the situation. 70% of Malagasy government spending is currently funded by outside donors, meaning international sanctions have the possibility of going a long way.

Massive protests have left hundreds dead and thousands injured over the last couple of months. Many protesters have been killed by security forces who have fired upon them with tear gas and bullets. Riots and violence have been spurred by these actions. The future remains incredibly unstable for Madagascar.

Coups have been overtaking modern African democracies as of late, with Mauritania and Guinea joining Madagascar in this type of political unrest over the last year alone. The rush for democracy has left politically unstable governments, and corrupt powers vying to sell off their country’s natural resources through privatization schemes introduced with the push for “democracy”. The atrocities currently being committed in Madagascar are said by Rajoelina to be happening in the name of democracy. These atrocities must not go unnoticed, as they have little resemblance to any kind of democracy.

Madagascar remains an incredibly poor country despite its abundant natural resources and tremendous beauty. It is home to some of the most diverse species on the planet, many that cannot be found elsewhere. The lack of infrastructure and poor governance leaves the country unable to transcend its poverty. It is the people who suffer and it is the people (and not the profit to be had) who we should be directing our vision towards.

The normal news media has been vague on Madagascar, so I have taken to following the numerous blogs and tweets on the situation for more insight. Doing so has revealed a larger picture of devastation. Even children are protesting in the streets, throwing stones at their opposing protestors. Independent bloggers have been told to remove any pictures or material offensive to the new government, severely curtailing freedoms of speech. Thousands meet almost daily in the streets to protest. Civil war is not far off as the population divides itself further and further. The angry sentiments can be felt in many of the culturally violent comments. Divisions appear to be widening.

The destruction of several cyclones in the past few years has left thousands in the country homeless and many dead or injured. In fact, relief efforts were hindered for the January 2009 Cyclone Fanele because of the political uprisings, leaving those affected completely reliant on the World Food Programme and international assistance for survival. International assistance becomes more and more difficult to deliver as violence intensifies.

What will become of Madagascar? Only time will tell, but certainly, we in Canada will have an impact through our investments and we must be aware the effect this will have on the population. Our policies should reflect the concerns of the population and not just the profit to be had here. Our extraction of natural resources must not cause greater destruction and must be obtained legally and fairly. Canada must not have a hand in supporting warlords, dictators or despots and must stop contributing to war and destruction through our policies or investments.


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Madagascar

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14 comments

  1. You’ve said everything. Nothing more to add till now. You made it clear and very good. Thx

  2. Thanks ariniaina! How are you finding the mood is around the city where you are? Are people still moving freely around? Going to school and work?
    Is there a change in mentalities at all? Are people talking about it a lot there, or is it a taboo subject in public? I’m very curious.

  3. Independent bloggers are not as well informed (they do not have journalist card, so, are not considered as journalists…).
    Furthermore, Some bloggers associations, close to the former president, lead bad propaganda to depict the real situation in Madagascar on the web…

    Be careful when analyzing blog information!!!

  4. Of course! I would never fully rely on just one source for anything… and I always try to look for backing in other places first. I find similar situations in a lot of the mainstream media as well though as far as propaganda goes. There is a lot of bias in most writings and it is hard to get to the real “truth” (if that even exists).
    I do find that reading through the commentaries in some of the blogs helps to give an idea of the anger that’s out there. Some of the comment threads I think are the most revealing, more so than the actual posting in the blogs because people’s reactions to the post are very telling.
    Are you from Madagascar Nikita? Do you have any information to share with us on the current situation? Our hearts go out to the Malagasy people right now, and we are all hoping for a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible!

  5. I’d love input from any Malagasy people on what you would like to see from the international community. What do you think we can do to help you achieve a more peaceful resolution? Do you think sanctions would be effective at all on your government, or would it only the make the situation worse? How do you feel about international humanitarian aid or loans to Madagascar?

  6. Personnally, I think that Malagasy unity is a priority..If we are united as a whole, any international sanction will arm us!

    But, I agree with Nikita in some points: in your opinion, who is replying to the web comments?
    answer: those who have internet access…and by the way, those who have this capacity (money, so…)
    -So, how many of malagasy people have such internet connection?
    -How many do live in poverty? Are they able to comment?

    In Madagascar, I’m conviced that “web comments” or blog information could not be used as a representative tool for screening public opinion!
    Good luck, anyway..

  7. Thank you for the opinion Ali!
    I think you bring some good points, and I am definitely aware that blogs are not a primary source of information or adequate for screening public opinion! They are a useful tool to some degree, but they definitely do have their limitations. I have been able to see some videos on the blogs of the protests that were not available elsewhere and this did open my eyes a bit to some views of what’s going on. In this way, they were useful. I use them as a supplement to information found in main stream media. If all the main stream media is saying one thing, but the bloggers all disagree, it makes me question more what’s really happening and sends me searching elsewhere for more answers. It can be really hard to ascertain what’s going on around the world from limited news media, but I try my best. If you find things in my writings that you think are incorrect, or misinterpreted, please bring them to my attention and I will post the alternative view alongside it for more balance.

    My question becomes then, how can the international world help unify Madagascar (if at all)? Are there any measures you can see that we could assist in? Do you think that international sanctions (if done properly) on the new government could help to bring about unity? Could it help in returning Madagascar to democracy or unity by pressuring the new government? Or should we just back off completely? Do you feel that a peacekeeping force could be useful in helping to settle disputes and keeping the peace there?

  8. Great site this apeaceofconflict.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  9. Interesting article. However, a question remains: is Madagascar petroleum really sustainable? Nevertheless, your article stands to reason. A solution for peace? I trust that real peace depends on accurate information. http://dagonewsreader.wordpress.com/ . I was impressed by your publication. Thank you.
    Dago News Reader

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