Good morning Madagascar.......

This is the island my family originates from. After having spent numerous years in France, my parents decided to build a house there and share their time between France and Madagascar.

As soon as I heard about the recent upheavals in the island, I’ve been calling them every two-three days to check how they were and what was happening.

So briefly here are the facts: the young mayor of the capital city Antananarivo, called for a general strike on January 24th and a huge demonstration took place to protest against the policy led by president Marc Ravalomanana, and the lack of freedom of expression. Apparently, the two men had already a very tense relationship since Andry Rajoelina was elected mayor of the city.

It only got worse when Rajoelina's private TV channel Viva was banned for having featured an interview with former president Didier Ratsiraka, last december.

Two days after the strike, thousands of people demonstrated again in the capital and set fire to the National Radio and Television building and some stores belonging to the president's family, causing the death of 68 persons. Since then, the mayor has been relieved of his duties but is firmly determined to win the battle. He refused his dismissal and proclaimed himself the new leader of the country and started to organize a transitional government.

left, Andry Rajoelina and right, president Marc Ravalomanana. Both men come from entrepreneurial background.

A. Rajoelina wearing the orange scarf as a sign of contestation

"we thought the demonstrations would gradually come to an end....said my father on my phone, this morning, but on sunday, thousands of people gathered in front of the presidential palace and the police started to shoot killing 28 people, I heard but I'm not sure. This is bad...and the minister of defense just resigned and is now replaced by an army officer, and this is not good at all..."

I can hear my mother talk by his side. I know she’s sad and thought this was bound to happen. Madagascar is a very poor country and the growing gap between the very poor and the very rich makes her sick. I dare not tell her she’s quite privileged herself to live in a sheltered house and in a manucured area. At least, she tries to do her bit and has made plans to build a school in the countryside outside Tana, although now she confesses being confused. She had faith in president Ravalomanana as for the past few years, the Malagasy economy gained some strength through foreign investments, but his recent purchase of a Boeing 737-700 worth 112 billions of ariary (the malagasy currency) the equivalent of 43 millions of euros, made her quite angry.

“you know, she said, supposedly this is the budget allocated to education and research….so here it goes !

If you add to this that 70% of the population lives below the poverty threshold and 49% of children under five are ill-nourished, this costly purchase appears shocking if not obscene.

"Oh...and the last thing you should know, my father says, is about this Daewoo contract...

- What’s that ?

- Well…imagine half of the land is confiscated to grow corn to be exported to South Corea

What you mean ?

- There is a lease contract signed for 99 years between Madagascar and Daewoo. Supposedly for free…we don’t know much about it
yet, but like I told you, it’s about letting 1 million hectares of good land without seeing any benefits for us !"

I wish I could have stayed longer on the phone with my parents. I’ve read a few articles about this contract between Madagascar and the South corean mega firm. To think Madagascar was a former colony which won its independence and then now what ? Is it going to be one of these lands newly exploited by rich countries in order to feed its people while the people of Madagascar have barely anything to eat ? So sad.....

pics: i can't even remember where the pics are from surely... AFP


Lala Ema, thank you for educating me about what is going on in Madagascar...these are such challenging times, and reading things such as this makes me want to contribute to others in a larger way.

My best thoughts to you and your family, and all those experiencing such upheavel.
tangobaby said…
Wow, Lala, this is a very sad and intricate story. I can imagine how difficult it must be for you, looking from the outside, and even more for your parents.

I hope this is a conflict that is able to resolve itself soon before it gets worse and that your family remains safe from harm.

paris parfait said…
Oh dear - it all sounds rather ominous, doesn't it? I hope the situation is resolved without further bloodshed and that more equality is possible. That Daewoo contract sounds dangerous for the nation - beneficial for only a very few. The purchase of that plane just seems like lunacy. Hoping all is well for your family and friends and the people of Madagascar.
dutchbaby said…
Dear Lala,
This is a very frightening story. You must be worried sick for your parents and other loved ones in Madagascar. Thank you for informing us on the details of the political climate - it's near impossible to get this kind of information in mainstream news reporting in the US.

It's sad how greed so often overtakes all reason and compassion when one is anointed with power.

You and your family will be in my thoughts.
I am sorry to hear that another country is experiencing such problems. The gap between poor and rich is widening everywhere, and such disparity can only breed anger and resentment....

I hope your parents stay safe and that the situation cools down.
Ana Cristina said…
I hope your parents stay safe and well. I'll keep them in my thoughts and prayers...
Christina said…
This has made me teary. I will continue to pray for you and your family, Lala.

Anonymous said…
To me, this unrest highlights the importance of solid political leadership and the geopolitical ramifications of globalization.

One painful lesson that I believe the global community is learning is that there are serious downsides to globalization if there are no safety and protection protocols. That is why strong political leadership is crucial in the 21st century. Yes, it is good to have trade and foreign investment. But not at the expense of the citizens of a country. Political leaders must ensure that farmers and workers wages, working conditions, and healthcare are all given fair consideration before signing a trade deal.

This is a very important issue that you have raised here. Not only for Madagascar, but for the global community as a whole.

Oh, I'm also very happy that your family is doing well and hope that they continue to be safe.
Susana said…
Oh, Lala, muchas cosas que ocurren en el mundo son totalmente incomprensibles. Mientras hay gente que se muere de hambre, otros se enriquecen más y más a costa de los países que sufren. Es la constante historia de la tragedia humana.

Gracias por dejarme un mensaje. No te preocupes por no haberme escrito, gracias por todo y nuestros mejores deseos a tu familia.
Cynthia said…
Poor Lala Ema, I hope your island is peacefully settled soon. Why is it that our leaders have to dissappoint us so? I feel for your mother. She seems to understand how to balance wealth and responsibility. When political leaders are tempted with money and the good life, how often they discourage us. It's like that in Puerto Rico too. So many political figures do under-handed deals. It's often in the news. Many get caught but it still goes on. May your family be safe. May your island be eased through these difficult times. May you have cause to laugh and play soon, dear Lala Ema.
Khaled KEM said…
Hello Lala,

Thanks for the post. I love politics but I knew little about the conflict in Madagascar. One of my profs at the University was from Madagascar and she use to tell us about people over there and a little bit of Madagascar history. That was few years ago. Two years ago, she was able to secure a fund from the Canadian government to help preventing cervical cancer in women in Madagascar.
I guess that the conflict of interests and corruption and misuse of power is the main problem of all "developing countries" after getting independence.

I will follow the news and see what's going to happen? I hope that the people of Madagascar has the will to stand for themselves and change all that but likely with no violence.
Grant Miller said…
They are in my thoughts.
Claire said…
my heart bleeds. it really does. i pray for them often.
Claire said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esti said…
espero que tus padres estén bien y que todo vuelva más o menos a la "normalidad". Gracias por hablar de un país del que sabemos tan poco. Un abrazo a tu familia.
kyh said…
I nvr knew there were so much probs there. It's enlightening to know this. I wish your people a safe and bright future ahead. :)
l'air du temps said…
this is heartbreaking.

i'm glad your family is safe and i hope they will stay safe.

and i'm praying for peace real soon.

This makes me really angry. I cannot understand why some leaders use their power to suppress the people of their countries like this. It's incredible that this leader can live with himself and spend this amount of money when he must know that most of his people are unhappy, poor, and hungry! I hope your parents will be safe and that there soon will be a change for the better for all suppressed people in the world!
willow said…
You and your parents are in my thoughts, Lala. Hopefully these things can be sorted out and resolved soon. Blessings to you and your family.
simon said…
interesting blog! :o)
Estela said…
My god!!! It's not fair at all.
I hope it can be resolved soon.
Un beso enorme para tí y tu familia.
kendalee said…
Isn't it awful how lessons like this are not learnt from history but the same greed for wealth and power corrupts again and again? So sad, Lala.

Thank you for sharing this. x
Relyn said…
I just wanted to tell you that I am thinking of you, of your parents, of Madagascar itself. Sending loving prayers for peace and wisdom for those in power.
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Elizabeth said…
Dear Lala
My heart goes out to you and your family.
Hoping that all will be resolved without too much more heart ache.
Hugs from New York.
Dearest Lala,
Thinking of you and your family. I so hope that things have not escalated and that your parents are well. I wish you love on this Valentine's Day.
con mucho carino,
Yoli said…
Praying for your family.
Lavinia said…
Lala this is very troubling. We can hope and pray that the situation improves, for all the citizens. I hope it happens soon.

By the way, Happy Valentines day to you and I hope you have a very nice romantic soiree with MonCheri!
Indyeah said…
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Indyeah said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indyeah said…
Dear Lal!I am certain that your parents will be fine.:)You and all of us who know you are praying and wishing so hard you see.:)

Sorry to get here so late...As I read your post,it struck me as to how the basic issues are so similar around the write of freedom of expression and so it was with us here in India...we too were protesting against not being allowed to have freedom of expression and freedom of choice...
..Lal!God bless you and your loved ones..take care..:)
my thoughts are with you..:)
Indyeah said…
sorry the 'A' key doesnt seem to work...:)
take care Lala..:)
Lougaroux said…
Hi. Thanks for your piece on Madagascar an extraordinary place I hold dear to my heart following a 4 month visit in the 90's. I was there shortly before the palace burnt down. I hope your parents stay safe from the turmoil until it settles down. Colin
Anonymous said…
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