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Madagascar as of Today: Never Boring, Always Enduring

In Economics, French, Human Rights, Society, Terror on May 3, 2012 at 12:25 am

Madagascar had a rocky start for the New Year . It would probably be more accurate to state that the New Year has seen a display of multiple conflicts in various areas, from economy to politics, through daily societal life. Never boring, always enduring. We are in May 2012 and the situation has not improved.

OLD NEWS in ACTUAL TIME: RAVALOMANANA IS A THREAT TO RAJOELINA

Ravalomanana whether present or absent from Antananarivo continues to be a serious threat to Rajoelina and his close associates. How else could be explained the facts that Ravalomamana has been refused twice or thrice re-entry to Madagascar? Similar situation happened to his wife who attempted to return by herself. And his son has been victim of an illegal search if not a police raid at his home.

April 28-May 2nd 2012: On a more recent tone, the Ravalomanana team led by sociologist and long-time political activist Manandafy Rakotonirina,  has made a public demonstration against the parliament, marking its on-going protest against the legitimacy of the current regime. The Rajoelina regime  had decided to counteract by dispersing the crowd, using tear gas. High profile members of the transitional parliament, including the head of the body, Mamy Rakotoarivelo, who had joined the rally were  not spared by military forces.  The Ravalomanana team had distanced itself from the “transitional” administration since the Rajoelina regime’s  attempts to eliminate Ravalomanana from presidential elections. Today, it clearly declares its separation from the transitional administration as long as mutually-agreed upon SADC requirements are not met and recommendations taken into account. There is a clear dissension between Rajoelina allies and the SADC. This latest is accused of interfering in “tactical and operational” functions  of the Malagasy security forces according to a declaration made by the leader of the gendarmerie, Madagascar internal security forces, General Ravalomanana.  Following the  rally, the former twice elected-president, Marc Ravalomanana himself had addressed via phone to his followers, according to La Gazette de la Grande Ile. According to La Vérité, some members of the military had joined the rally, signaling that the movement may grow bigger than expected by the HAT. Both opposing parties announced that there were some arrests, according to Midi Madagascar.

Worthy of noting is the most recent request of investigation filed  in South Africa against president Marc Ravalomanana for alleged crime against humanity in 2009, and published by Madagate, a news portal of the HAT.

Pr. RAYMOND RANJEVA, A FORMER VP OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, IN TRIAL IN MALAGASY CRIMINAL COURT

March 19, 2012: Judge Raymond Ranjeva, well-known in the legal world for his heavy curriculum vitae, formerly member of the Hague International Court of Justice (ICJ)  from 1991 to 2009, Vice-President of the ICJ  from 2003 to 2006, and Founding Member of the Malagasy Human Rights Committee  in 1971, did appear in Madagascar Criminal Court of Justice. Judge Ranjeva was allegedly accused of being involved in the 2010 army mutiny against Rajoelina. His trial, along with his daughter’s, Ranjeva-Ratsisalovanina, who was accused of the same crime,  has been a major event in Madagascar, and closely followed by international observers, including the United States and the United Nations. The Court acquitted Pr. Ranjeva on March 21. Military officers accused of the mutiny or BANI case were condemned from seven years to life of forced labor.  A letter from the SADC was read during the trial, calling for a suspension of the trial “until some of the roadmap’s articles are made clear.” The Court seemed to not have taken the letter into account. Evidently, Raymond Ranjeva being an international Human Rights figure made a difference. In Madagascar linkages between justice and executive power are stronger than ever, evidenced by a series of trials.

HAUSSE DES PRIX A LA CONSOMMATION: de + 0,8% à + 3,3%

L’indice des Prix à la consommation (IPC) a enregistré une hausse substantielle durant le premier trimestre 2012 selon le l’Institut National de la Statistique (Instat) de Madagascar, et selon le tableau suivant:

– Antsirabe: + 1% (Plateaux Sud/South of the Capital)
– Toamasina: +3,3% (Côte Est/ East Coast)
– Fianarantsoa: + 2,7% (Centre Sud/Mid-South)
– Antananarivo: +2,1% (Centre Plateaux/Capital Region)
– Majunga (1,8%) (Nord Ouest/North West)
– Tuléar+1,6% (Sud/South)
– Diégo Suarez: + 0,7% (Nord/North)

De même, le SMIG a été rehaussé a “100 011 Ariary brut” dans le secteur privé. Selon La Gazette cette hausse ne couvre pas la hausse des prix à la consommation.

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Unsung Heroes of Madagascar: sacrificing freedom, safety and the country’s sovereignty?

In Economics, French, Human Rights, Pictures, Politics, Society, Testimonies on December 14, 2011 at 8:35 am

Many Malagasy people remember seeing Ratsiraka in front of a blackboard, making one of his memorable speeches, and demonstrating on the board how much rice Malagasies consume. That memorable evening, Malagasies learned, among other facts, that they were the biggest consumers of rice per capita in the world. According to the FAO, brown rice consumption was 140kg per capita, in 2000 . Amazing! Ten years later, local consumption had decreased by over 6%.

One has to be careful in one’s interpretation: Malagasy people do not eat less rice. Malagasies get to eat less. Indeed, according to IRIN ,  rice is no more readily affordable. Sadly enough this staple food has become a luxury in Madagascar.

Within the past two years, the price of rice has more than doubled reaching US$1 the kilogram. That is about the same amount that the US consumer who makes a minimum wage of $7.25 has to  pay for basic rice at Walmart. In Madagascar, the guaranteed minimum wage or salaire minimum interprofessionnel garanti  (SMIG) is is about 28 euros today, that is roughly US$ 37, which would translate into less than a quarter for an hour work (US$0.25), based on a 40h workweek. “Food accounts to 75% of a household’s budget“, according to  a monetization specialist for a US-based food company in Madagascar.

In January, Rajoelina had announced a 10% increase in salary for the public sector, reaching a 25% increase for those who make the SMIG. As for the private sector, a staggered 17% increase was agreed. Certainly an improvement but not enough to remedy the real problem: major loss of jobs, destroyed economy, changed mentality.

Madagascar has been living in a sociopolitical crisis for over two years now, leaving a crippled economy. From a growing and inventive economy under the UN Millenium project  it has become one of the poorest in the world.

Under his “Madagascar Naturellement” (Madagascar Naturally) program Ravalomanana had lined up an integrated guideline for World Bank, UNDP, EU and other bi-lateral aid and cooperation efforts. Today, the Millenium roadmap is forgotten in history. The textile industry had to shut down. The US market alone  provided about US$278 million of the textile revenue in 2008 . The Tiko Group, one of the most solid firms in Madagascar, has been destroyed, solely because it was Ravalomanana’s business. It was relevant in various sectors such agro-industry, construction and media and provided for thousands of jobs. The Tiko group  by itself provided 5,000 jobs and supported thousands more in other sectors.

Under Ratsiraka’s regime and his promise for a socialist revolution, the economy was relying on a vast government: government and army jobs, and  nationalization of the economy starting in the mid-70s when Ratsiraka came to power. Madagascar defense budget was reaching US$101 million in 1979, only four years into Ratsiraka’s leadership. Economic revolution was outlined in the Red Book. Today’s generation may not remember  the lines for basic needs such as rice, oil and meat or the massive government workers’ strike that started Ratsiraka’s downfall.

But Madagascar is forgiving. It would be more correct to say that Malagasy people sometimes have a short memory of repeated events that have periodically occurred throughout  its independence. So whether positive or negative, historical facts fade easily in Malagasy memories. May 1972 costed innocent lives, and over time it has been downplayed and forgotten. The aura and promises of the Millenium program as well as the fear lived under soviet-, Korean- and Kadafi-inspired Ratsiraka’s dictature alike have faded in conscious memories, aided by the political cultivation of traditional forgiveness through the notion of “fihavanana”(1).

Indeed, by essence, Madagascar is culturally peaceful. However, one has to understand the evolved Malagasy philosophy or culture that is such a mix of different ones, and that is tainted by Madagascar’s sociopolitical experiences. For example, the French saying “ventre affamé n’a pas d’oreilles” (literally a hungry stomach has no ears)  is widely used in Madagascar. If you are hungry, you loose all capacity of analysis and objectivity. By natural instinct, you will need to satisfy an immediate need, particularly if the need has been lasting for over two years. Should anybody offer you a solution or what appears to you as a solution to save your family, you will be more likely willing to grab that proposed solution. “More  likely” than not because in Malagasy there is a also a saying  that you could hear on a daily basis: “It is best to die tomorrow rather than today.”

So today, Ravalomanana shortcomings are kept very much alive in memory. The focus is kept on Ravalomanana business practices and the fact that the military opened fire on the crowd who crossed the presidential red line and killed twenty eight protesters in February of 2009. Much controversy remains about that crossing line event that was viewed by some observers as a  Rajoelina scheme to take over power.

Today also, Ratsiraka is welcomed with open arms and it has been, consciously or conveniently, forgotten that under Ratsiraka’s astounding videorecorded order  the Presidential Guard opened fire on 400,000 peaceful protesters. It has been equally forgotten that Ratsiraka’s lawyer had admitted that the court ruling of 10 years of hard labor against him for embezzlement of US$ 8 millions of public funds  ” seems (ed) fair enough.” Ratsiraka for his part never admitted any wrongdoing, to this day.

Forgotten in history are the students who fell under the military gunshots in 1972 when Tsiranana made the terrible political, broadcast mistake of ordering the killing of “10, 100, 1000” student-led protesters. Forgotten in memories are those unsung heroes who struggled and lost their sense of being during food shortages under the Ratsiraka Socialist experiment. Erased in history are those who lost their lives.  Lost in time are those who have perished in one way or another whether under pursuits and gunshots or through moral decadence for survival, since Rajoelina has been in power. To those  little, unsung heroes of Madagascar, to those who can barely afford rice amid the political,  unchanged allegiances one has to strive for objectivity. While Ratsiraka flew back to France, Rajoelina is back from France with a cooperation agreement of 10 millions of euros and Sarkozy’s promises of lobbying to the European Union and the US government for sanction relief. The same day at  its December 8th meeting in Addis Abeba, the Peace and Security Council announced its intention to lift Madagascar sanctions  based on progress made toward the roadmap to lawful State. According to local medias, the USA will advance US$8 millions and the European Union 100millions of euros to alleviate the situation.  The people of Madagascar need to be able to afford their daily rice, and while bending seems necessary to all involved parties at all levels of this peace seeking solution, one hopes that it would not  be at the high price of the Malagasy people’s freedom, prized culture  and safety.

Life Goes On…A Far Cry from Democracy

In Economics, Elections, French, Politics, Society on October 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Amid recurrent crises life goes on in Madagascar. Nothing changes despite talks, again and again, infinite local and international talks. Among the major speculations and possibilities: a military Directorate...again, or Rajoelina winning his coveted presidential bid! Sadly, there is no news, just a relentless repeat of the past. When will Madagascar learn despite efforts from various groups? What has Madagascar learned?

Some concerns about Madagascar sovereignty, let alone Madagascar’s future seem legitimate. But aren’t today’s sovereignty concerns just a circumstantial  shift of foreign influence from one continent to another that Madagascar had endured over the decades? Isn’t it also the result of the remapping of world politics? Remember when Madagascar lost its sovereignty for the first time? It resulted from a quarrel between France and England, caused the end of Madagascar Kingdom, the exile of its leader, the emergence of a new era: colonization, independence, a myriad of regimes and administrations that had no respect for or made a priority of the sovereignty of the Malagasy people. One regime tried to restore Madagascar sovereignty: The Ramanantsoa regime. Although nationalist, it was viewed as too conservative, too “aristocratic.” Ravalomanana also calls himself  a nationalist.

Today, it was announced that the prime minister of the HAT resigned in line with the “road map”” to bring an end to the long standing crisis. And again, today, life goes on and nobody dares to dream of a better life anymore: survival has been a daily struggle for nearly the last three years. So what has Madagascar  learned? Maybe the question is how could you hear and see and think of your country’s future when you are overwhelmed by the present? The power of democracy lies in information and an educated population. Although the young generation is catching up with social media, life goes on…still a far cry from democracy. Concerns remain.

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