Participation in a forbidden demonstration

Been catching up with a bit of news and noticed that there was a tiny bit of under reported action going on in Madagascar, namely, “the referendum” an exercise in which Andry Rajoelina is deceptively trying to encourage people to vote for his party with an endless amount of promises in return for his retaining the office of president.

On Nov 6th, 2010, Andry Rajoelina states that “The victory of Madagascar is in your hands. The time to talk is over. Now is the time to build” as if to sound as though he can be a man of action under the current financial circumstances and to create the illusion to the people of Madagascar that they actually have a choice, which is certainly untrue. To get the Malagasy people on board with him, he lays out a long list of promises that are almost too ludicrous to believe:

  • New stadiums
  • New housing
  • New hospitals
  • New highways/roads/transportation links
  • Food subsidies
  • Employment
  • Large construction projects
  • Restoring a state owned sugar refinery (most likely a TIKO in my opinion)
  • New train system
  • New cement factory
  • Modernize Air Madagascar’s fleet of planes

All of the announcements were cunningly designed to sound as though people will grant Madagascar some glorious victory from some form of oppression to make people feel patriotic and also to over promise (in typical politician style) to give the illusion that everything is fine and things are looking up.

Anyone who is well read and connected to international reports (the only kind that can be trusted since Rajoelina pollutes Madagascar with his own version of news) will know that this is just another pathetic attempt to try and convince the international community that his presidency is valid. After all, who could deny him his legitimacy when so many Malagasy voted for him?

We (the international community) are not stupid Mr. Rajoelina. We know how you handle dissension, you proved that at your rally by using tear gas against an opposition voice that was trying to speak against you and arrest 21 of people who dared speak against your corrupt government under the guise that they are destabilizing the peace. You have shown us many times over that you do not want to talk to or work with anyone else, that you do not value personal opinion or democracy and that you will not rest until one of your little tricks results in the international community recognizing your wicked government. Here’s a news flash for you, not going to happen!

I can only think of 2 reasons why Andy Rajoelina insists on having these rallies:

  1. He truly believes that if enough people vote for him that he can somehow legitimize his government.
  2. He is trying to create enough news as to give the illusion that he is really working hard to rebuild the country to the Malagasy, while behind the scenes his government condones many illegal activities to fund itself, as if to hide it.

Time and time again all of these plans end in abysmal failure as we are not forced to consume your brand of news as the people of Madagascar are. No one outside of Madagascar will ever recognize the HAT as a legitimate government and we will continue to push you to return to democratic, not autocratic, rule. Now if only there was a way to make that happen faster…. 🙂

While Madagascar poverty grows, HAT falsely promises economic recovery

Because I have not seen any news stories that report anything but the various attempts by the HAT to make people believe will be an election at some point in time, I haven’t felt as though there was anything particularly interesting to blog about.

But between last week and this one, I have found 3 reports that I think are a cause for concern, so I wanted to post them online and highlight some of the information from them.

Madagascar poll date set

The first article “Madagascar poll date set” is concerning because it appears that there is some sort of resolution that has been accepted by members of the HAT to systematically replace all municipal governments with HAT friendly politicians:

Elections for councillors and mayors will be held on Monday 20 December,” the statement said

The resolution stipulated that mayors and local councillors countrywide should be removed and replaced by transition officials, in all likelihood dignataries closer to the island’s strongman Andry Rajoelina.

I am not entirely how true this article is, but I don’t think it really matters because even if it is a rumor at this point, it does not sound outlandish enough that the HAT wouldn’t try it.

For quite some time now I have believed that the HAT would attempt to do something similar to this, but I was only thinking of other parts of national government.

If this turns out to be true, how will it be possible to have a legitimate election in the country? You can almost guarantee that each of the replacement mayors and/or additional governments top priority will be to spread misinformation or rig any votes in their municipality that do not favour the HAT. This kind of plan would never be accepted in a democratic country, so it just goes to show you how undemocratic the government is if it pushes ahead with such a horrible plan.

Poverty grows in Madagascar

The second article suggests that the Malagasy public as a whole is suffering horribly from the coup d’etat and does not provide much hope for the people of Madagascar:

Prior to the current political crisis, children being treated would get free milk, medication and treatment until they were ready to be discharged.

The centres now have to charge for feeding and medical treatment. A doctor explained that parents no longer bring their children because they cannot afford to pay.

Rising poverty means that families can no longer afford to send their children to school and are having increasing difficulty in providing them with an adequate diet. A quarter of all the health care centres have been forced to close. The purchase and distribution of drugs throughout the whole country are collapsing.

Another indication of the growing social crisis is that 18 women who have given birth over the last year have left, abandoning their babies at the Befelatanana hospital.

Rosa worked at the factory for seven years. She explained that she had lost her job and was now at home looking after her two children. Her husband works in the capital city at the informal street markets that have mushroomed since the coup. He is only able to scrape together $1 to $1.50 a day. The family can no longer afford to send their children to school. They are falling behind with the rent and fear eviction.

Labourers in the forest villages have to rely on this trade as their only source of income. They may get paid $2 for dragging out the felled trees that weigh around a tonne. Local merchants will pay around $53 for a 3-metre log of Rosewood, which on the international market could fetch $1,300. The trade, which is thought to be worth around $230 million a year to the handful of timber barons who control it, has generated widespread corruption.

It is clear that after 18 months of intrigue and political instability it is the poor masses of Madagascar who are bearing the brunt of cuts in aid and trade to this already impoverished country.

There was so much information in this article on just how much your average Malagasy person is suffering that I had to include so many quotes from the original article. But it does highlight all the problems of the average Malagasy and just how bad it is starting to get in the country.

Why is it that there “used” to be assistance for those who need it? How does assistance work if it is priced in such a way that the poor cannot afford it? What happened to make them charge? Is the humanitarian aid disappearing?

And just how many people lost their livelihood when Madagascar’s AGOA privileges were cancelled? It almost appears that anyone that is not lucky enough to own their own business or work for one that has survived is forced to try and sell anything they can in hopes of getting a lowly $1 – $2 a day.

How does a Malagasy person resist taking part in some sort of illegal action to survive? It appears as though the only way to make money in the country these days is to be performing some sort of illegal activity or working for the HAT.

There are just too many questions and uncertainties in Madagascar and because of the HAT’s “orange revolution” many Malagasy can no longer afford to pay rent, send their kids to school, feed their families or purchase medicine and it seems to be getting worse.

It paints a very grim future for the Malagasy, especially considering there are no prospects of a legitimate resolution to this crisis any time soon. Even if there was, would it matter? An internationally recognized president might start the funds flowing back into the country, but since the damage to the country is so extensive it would take years to bring the country back to where it was when Marc Ravalomanana was president. And would the Malagasy people have patience for a recovery? Would another opportunistic politician derail recovery for their own benefit?

Madagascar to Revive Economy Without Foreign Aid, Finance Ministry Says

The final and most ridiculous news comes from a Bloomberg article where the HAT states that they are perfectly capable of resurrecting the economy without help from anyone.

Madagascar’s government plans to revive economic growth next year without resorting to loans or grants from abroad, said the cabinet director of the Finance and Budget Ministry, Hugues Rajaonson.

The government has “its own resources to make the economy work,” Rajaonson said in an interview in the capital, Antananarivo, yesterday. “We don’t need one dollar from abroad or any of their help in how to manage our economy. We have the same diplomas as them.”

The government can fund its spending through tax revenue, Rajaonson said, without giving details. In September, the budget for all ministries was cut by 40 percent.

“We have a strategy but we are not going to tell it to anyone, even the World Bank,” Rajaonson said. “We have nothing to see until we do the budget,” which should be published by Jan. 3, he said.

This is perhaps the most absurd thing that I have heard in a long time from HAT and I would be surprised if even Hugues Rajaonson believes what had come out of his mouth. Here is quick summary of what he had said:

    • The HAT has mystery resources it is going to leverage to recover the economy.
    • The HAT is going to rely on tax revenue to fund its operation.
    • The HAT believes it has freed up money by cutting government budgets by 40%.
    • The HAT has a strategy that it cannot tell anyone that will fix the Malagasy economy.

I think perhaps that Andry Rajoelina should have picked another person to talk to the press about the economy. There is not one single part of Hugues Rajaonson that is even remotely believable:

Resources

The “only” resources the HAT has at it’s disposal are illegal ones. They HAT will continue to export whatever it can to make up for the money it is lacking from the international donors.

Tax Revenue

Where is this tax revenue coming from? Most of the country has resorted to local trade to make a measly $1 – $2 a day if they are lucky. And if a business is fortunate enough to remain in business, I am sure that they cannot possibly produce the amount of tax revenue to make up the difference missing from the donor money.

Cutting Budgets

How does cutting ministry budgets by 40% make sense?. If the budget for the government before the crisis was composed of 50-60% donor money what is 40% of the remaining 40%-50% non-donor money? You would assume that the remaining 40%-50% was revenue from Madagascar itself (manufacturing, tourism, exports… etc). But since there is virtually no manufacturing, tourism or exports now… I doubt that the 40% non-donor money is even close to being as much as it used to be, so cutting that by an additional 40% doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Perhaps the quote from Hugues Rajaonson would make more sense if he had said it like this:

The government has “its own rosewood resources to make the economy work,” Rajaonson said in an interview in the capital, Antananarivo, yesterday.

“We have a no strategy and we are not going to tell it to anyone, even the World Bank,” Rajaonson said. “We have nothing to see even when we do the budget,” which should be published by Jan. 3, he said.

It is truly sad that the Malagasy continue to suffer as the HAT runs around desperately trying to prove that it will have elections to an international community who is tired of it crying wolf.

There is no focus on Madagascar right now and unless something drastic happens, I doubt there will be in the near future. Madagascar is stuck, and will never move forward so long as a criminal is running the country for his own benefit.

 

Kangaroo Court

Incase you didn’t catch it, the HAT has been back in full unilateral action trying to set some new dates for various elections, get some unknown supportive signatures (from 90 some-odd political parties) all in an attempt to once again prove he is legitimate.

Madagascar President Andry Rojoelina has signed an agreement with least 90 minor political parties settings dates for a constitutional referendum, and parliamentary and presidential elections.

The agreement was signed in a ceremony in the capital Antananarivo late Friday. The signatories included representatives of three former presidents, including Marc Ravalomanana, the man Rojoelina ousted in a coup last year.

The part about representatives of the previous presidents signing is complete garbage and is just spin put on the story by the HAT before it could be clarified.

So since this fizzled out, and there are some new dates coming, the HAT has to ensure that there is no chance that Marc Ravalomanana can return to Madagascar to run in the elections. They do this by using a heavily biased court to decide that Marc Ravalomanana alone is solely responsible for the loss of life that occurred in March 2009, as if he was standing there gunning people down that day.

Of course, we all know that anything the kangaroo court of the HAT decides is heavily biased and is completely lacking in fairness and due process. There should be an impartial investigation into the events of that day, and in my opinion someone who had incited and misled people to run through a red zone should be just as guilty as anyone who had fired a gun.

Anyway, they passed judgement on Ravalomanana in August assigning total responsibility for the deaths of the people in March 2009 and sentencing him to life in prison, I think with hard labour.

The sentencing of Madagascar’s former president Marc Ravalomanana to hard labour for life may prove to be one more obstacle in the island’s attempts to emerge from its current political crisis.

Ravalomanana, who lives in exile in South Africa, was sentenced in absentia Saturday by a court in Antananarivo for his part in what are known as the February 7, 2009 killings, the third sentence handed to him since his ouster.

On that day, Ravalomanana’s presidential guard fired without warning on supporters of the island’s current strongman Andry Rajoelina making their way to the presidency, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 100.

Rest assured though, the show that the HAT is putting on for the international community regarding the new election dates (that inevitably get postponed indefinitely to keep Rajoelina in power) is not working on anyone, especially in light of the judgement that was passed in absentia for Marc Ravalomanana.

South Africa has strongly criticised Madagascar over the life sentence passed on exiled President Marc Ravalomanana last week.

Such sentences would not help end Madagascar’s political turmoil, said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

No one except France (of course) has said anything about the prolonged crisis. And until Rajoelina decides to start talking again with the other stakeholders in the crisis, Madagascar is not going to improve any time soon. Actually, if you want to know how Madagascar is doing, there was an interesting article by Gregory Simpkins on the state of Madagascar:

Andre Rajoelina has alienated the international community and the country’s political community. Donor nations, including the United States, have cut off all but humanitarian assistance, which is particularly damaging to Madagascar since the country’s budget was dependent for more than half its revenue from donors.

The cutoff of foreign aid has caused health clinics to shut down. A quarter of the country’s health clinics have shut down, and the distribution of essential drugs has collapsed.

More than half the country’s children are considered malnourished.

Madagascar had been one of AGOA’s success stories, earning US$600 million annually and accounting for 60% of the country’s exports. The closure of factories servicing the U.S. market has caused 50,000 to lose their jobs, exacerbating an already problematic economic picture.

“Slash and burn” agriculture is being practiced by poor farmers oppose a significant threat to Madagascar’s forests, but the report says the forests likely can’t be protected without addressing “fundamental economic issues that maintain rural people in abject poverty.”

So people in Madagascar will attempt to try and “survive” while all the political fools speak of unity, resolution, just posturing while doing little else. Until the fundamental issue of the coup is addressed between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana (and others), nothing will happen in Madagascar and the people that Rajoelina promised he would raise up will continue to suffer beneath his false rule.

Down with the HAT, Rajoelina and his cronies should be the ones serving life for what they have done to Madagascar and it’s people, not Ravalomanana. What Ravalomanana has done to Madagascar is not even comparable to the disaster that the HAT has caused.

Great article on rosewood

I just stumbled across this article this morning when looking through my feeds. This is a very extensive article on what is happening to the environment in Madagascar and the environment in which people live over there.

National Geographic: Madagascar’s Pierced Heart

Here are some excerpts:

Remon doesn’t like the work. The timber boss who employs him—but whose name he does not know—has told Remon that he must paddle all day without pause because the rangers have been bribed to stay away for only a finite period, after which another bribe will be expected. Still, transporting the fallen trees is better than cutting them down, which had been Remon’s previous job. He quit after concluding that the risks had become too great. While illegal logging had been going on for years, the pace had suddenly escalated: The forest was unpoliced and filled with organ ized gangs, a free-for-all of deforestation spurred by the collapse of Madagascar’s government in March of 2009 and by the insatiable appetite of Chinese timber procurers, who imported more than 200 million dollars’ worth of rosewood from the country’s northeastern forests in just a few months. One rosewood cutter Remon knew had been robbed of his harvest by forest thugs who told him, “There’s 30 of us, one of you.” And he’s just heard that two men were decapitated with a machete over a timber dispute a few days ago.

In September 2009, after months during which up to 460,000 dollars’ worth of rosewood was being illegally harvested every day, the cash-strapped new government reversed a 2000 ban on the export of rosewood and released a decree legalizing the sale of stockpiled logs. Pressured by an alarmed international community, the gov ernment reinstated the ban in April. Yet logging continues.

The residents of Antalaha who suddenly found themselves dodging motorcycle traffic also began to notice the price of fish, rice, and other daily goods begin to climb. The reason was simple: Fewer men were out at sea or in the fields.

“They’re in the forest,” says Michel Lomone, the vanilla exporter. “Everyone’s gone to the forest.”

The rosewood is cut into logs about seven feet long. Another team of two men tie ropes around each log and proceed to drag it out of the forest to the river’s edge, a feat that will take them two days and earn them $10 to $20 a log, depending on the distance. While staggering through the forest myself, from time to time I come upon the jarring apparition of two stoic figures tugging a 400-pound log up some impossible gradient or down a waterfall or across quicksand-like bogs—a hard labor of biblical scale, except that these men are doing this for money. As is the man the pair would meet up with at the river, waiting to tie the log to a handcrafted radeau, or raft, to help it float down the rapids ($25 a log). As is the pirogueman awaiting the radeau where the rapids subside ($12 a log). As is the park ranger whom the timber bosses have bribed to stay away ($200 for two weeks). As are police at checkpoints along the road to Antalaha ($20 an officer). The damage to the forest is far more than the loss of the precious hardwoods: For each dense rosewood log, four or five lighter trees are cut down to create the raft that will transport it down the river.

Check out the article, it is very interesting.

It’s been awhile

I was taking a little hiatus from blogging since everything Madagascar was stuck in a perpetual loop of failure, so glad that when I return things have changed (sarcasm).

The problem of course is that things haven’t changed, not even a bit. Since May all that has been occurring basically is a bunch of scientists stating that Madagascar is soon to be a paradise lost:

I completely agree that the world is losing something special with the loss of all the fauna/flora in Madagascar, but you can hardly expect anything less when the illegal government of Madagascar is using the sale of rosewood to prop itself up (and who knows what else).

Aside from the worlds concern over Madagascar’s precious fauna/flora there has been virtually zero interest in the people of Madagascar,  which of course led to the lack of stories and progress in the country.

I am truly starting to believe that the world is becoming complacent and bored of hearing about the endless negotiations between 3 ex-presidents and an illegal government, I know I am, here’s why:

July 22nd, 2010: Chief mediator in fresh Madagascar peace bid

There was hardly any news on this latest attempt at all, let alone the results of the talks.

I have started to lose count as to how many times Joaquim Chissano has gone to Madagascar to try and talk to all the politicians as it happens so often. But you have to ask, how useful will these supposed talks be if Andry Rajoelina has refused to negotiate any longer? If you ask me, he probably went for a brief 4 day vacation in Madagascar to see how everyone is doing. There were no talks, well none that anyone has recorded and published as a news story. Even the article announcing that there were to be new talks sounds too apologetic:

“I do not come with preconceived ideas. I want to know, at this level, given all what has happened, what Madagascans think,” he told AFP.

“We have come to offer our good services. To help find a solution. The process belongs to the people of Madagascar,” Chissano said.

There are and will not be any negotiations for quite some time, there is no need to as nothing is currently driving Rajoelina to require anything outside of Madagascar.

August 06th, 2010: Impasse in Madagascar concerns SADC leaders

Really? The SADC is “concerned”? That’s it after over a year and a half? How is the concern of this seemingly useless African body going to help Madagascar? They are about as useful as Joaquim Chissano has been.

Then there is this:

The body was “satisfied” with the “improved political situation and consequent economic recuperation” in Zimbabwe, Mozambique’s Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs Aiuba Cuereneia said at the opening ceremony.

They are “satisfied” with Zimbabwe? Really, there can be this much progress in Zimbabwe to be satisfied? I imagine if that is satisfying enough for them, then I am sure that Madagascar will clear up sometime soon.

August 14th, 2010: Madagascar leader signs deal with minor parties

Despite all the concern and attempts at negotiations Rajoelina forges ahead and signs some sort of a deal with 99 parties (excluding the 3 former presidents) so that they can go ahead with elections crafted by the HAT government? Come on! Seriously? I can’t believe that I can’t find any articles or comments on how this is another unilateral move by Rajoelina! Nobody cares anymore (except those in the linked article).

Madgascar’s President Andry Rajoelina signed a deal late on Friday with dozens of minor parties aimed at ending a protracted political crisis, but the pact was rejected by the country’s main opposition leaders. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Rajoelina said it marked a step towards a new constitution for the country, adding: “Our signatures take us in that direction.” The agreement between the 36-year-old former disc jockey and 99 parties confirmed him as president, giving him the power to appoint ministers on the recommendation of party leaders and members of the interim two-chamber parliament. The deal also changed election dates that were initially agreed earlier this week. A referendum on a new constitution will be held as planned on Nov. 17 this year. A legislative election will take place on March 16 next year and a presidential ballot on May 4. “No one can any longer criticise the path we have taken as unilateralist.

I don’t know what to be concerned more about, the fact that there are 99 political parties or that Rajoelina was able to pull this hoax off with little to no bad press.  And I am not sure how 99 unknown political parties working with Rajoelina makes this move any less unilateral since he is still an illegal president, and the legitimate president is taking no part in this plan. Also… this plan is no different than any other plan he has had other than there being 99 parties (which is totally unrealistic) agreeing with him.

So  May 29th to August and this is all there is to report on the current situation in Madagascar, this is sad. As I have always said, Rajoelina will be just fine as long as he has money to sustain himself and the army. And it would seem with local trade and the illegal rosewood logging that the Rajoelina government is going to be around for some time to come (because election dates can change right?).

Meet the new Ratbag government, same as the old Ratbag government

While I am glad that Antananarivo did not become a war zone, I am disappointed that a stand against the current regime basically amounted to nothing (not that I was expecting it to anyway). Isn’t it funny sometimes how you get so desperately bored of the way that this illegal government behaves that you hope that anyone who dares oppose it have some level of success? Sometimes I am scared that the people of Madagascar are going to become so desperate that they will pick anyone to be president, so long as Rajoelina and his government disappear… I know I am starting to feel that way.

Anyway, despite there being no real “action”, so to speak, in Madagascar, there are still quite a few stories (listed below):

And these are only the ones that I want to touch on briefly, there are some more interesting information if you go to the “news links” tab of my blog. In case you are wondering about the title, I borrowed it from John Moore a radio host in Toronto that frequently uses this phrase to describe the federal government in Canada, thought it would be more applicable to the HAT and all their cabinet shuffling.

So about reshuffling the cabinet, I have become unbelievably bored of hearing how many times TGV are going to replace their ministers. At first I thought to myself that it must be me, surely I just “think” that they are changing government THAT frequently… it makes no sense. But then, thanks to Twitter and all the people following the crisis like myself, I get this link to “50 ministers in 15 months” (French article). Unreal isn’t it? Here I was thinking that it isn’t possible to shuffle a government cabinet this many times and there is an article about that very thought.

The government Monday of Pentecost is still and always composed of a plethora of 32 ministers, who, with 44 members of the transitional authority, are all paid for with scarce taxpayer resources. By comparison, under Ravalomanana, successive governments of Jacques Sylla (2002-2007) and Charles Rabemananjara (from 2006-2009) each had 21 members. Over the past 15 months, 51 people are exactly who participated in the waltz of ministers orchestrated by Andry TGV, ex-disc jockey

So if you read this right, Rajoelina has added 6 additional ministers to his government and by doing that and everything else he is doing wrong, he is burning through taxpayer money like no one else. The only real reasons that I can think of, but doesn’t necessarily justify how many minsters have come and gone is that he likes to treat his friends and supporters too much. It seems he likes to let everyone share power so they can have their piece of the Madagascar taxpayer pie. If you think about it, there can really be no other explanation since he “hand picks” new ministers for the job, despite knowing perfectly well that another unilateral Rajoelina branded “neutral” government means nothing to anyone outside of Madagascar.

Andry Rajoelina argues that the new cabinet is in line with his plan to establish a “neutral” government in the run-up to elections —legislative and presidential — before the end of the year.

“Once again, it is a unilateral initiative, as such, can not get international recognition, “he told Reuters Fetison Andrianirina, leader of the movement loyal to ousted President Marc Ravalomanana.

Back to the mutiny for a second, it appears (as it usually does) that Andry Rajoelina has his man when it comes to the mutiny of May 20th. According to most news Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is said to held in connection to May 20th and to have spilled the beans as to why the mutiny was called in the first place. The reason of course, is that Marc Ravalomanana caused this because <insert reason here>. Everytime there is every any trouble involving his government Andry Rajoelina is quick to point out in some way that the former president is responsible somehow thinking that this will deflect criticism of his government for possibly being the real reason as to why this had happened.

The police say Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy is being held in custody in connection with Thursday’s battle between security forces and a dissident group of military police.

The mutineers were said to be angry at alleged abuses by their superiors.

The office of President Andry Rajoelina said Friday the former president was trying to create tensions within the armed forces.

President Andry Rajoelina has accused Ravalomanana of backing Thursday’s mutiny by a military police faction, saying he had thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars at military chiefs in an attempt to destabilise Madagascar.

It is really just all a PR stunt that will be used later on down the road as a reason why the HAT will not attend any upcoming negotiations with the former presidents.

Marc Ravalomanana of course denies any involvement with this, which is believable. Even if he did provide money to the military (seems like they can be paid off fairly easily anyway) does anyone think for a second that a mutiny paid for like Marc Ravalomanana would the the miserable failure that this mutiny was? Besides, how is it even possible to resolve the impasse by paying for a mutiny? If it were possible at all, it’s not like Marc Ravalomanana could resume his presidency without having to answer questions about how he returned, he would end up being no better than Rajoelina.

“I … deny any involvement in the clashes in Madagascar,” Ravalomanana told Reuters by telephone from Pretoria in South Africa where he is in exile.

“I have nothing to do with the military leaders that are behind this and it is not in my interest to finance violent action in the army,” he said.

Now comes the interesting part. It would appear from the last 3 listed stories that if you are banking (no pun intended) on the HAT’s illegitimate government to run out of money that you should think again. It seems as though the HAT government has no problems prostituting Madagascar’s resources to the highest bidder in order to stay in power. First up, a good article from Barry Bearack of the NY times about how the criminal element and the current government are taking advantage of the coup to reap profits from Madagascar’s protected rose wood:
Exploiting a political crisis, Malagasy timber barons are robbing this island nation of its sylvan heritage, illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of the valuable logs to China.

This accelerated plunder of the rainforest coincided with a military coup in March 2009. Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, was installed as president, and he has since led a weakened and tottering government that is unable — and perhaps unwilling — to stop the trafficking.

“The government does nothing because it shares in the money,” said Ndranto Razakamanarina, president of an association of Malagasy environmental groups and a policy officer with the World Wildlife Fund. “Many of the ministers think they’ll be in office only three or six months, so they decide to make money while they can. The timber mafia is corrupt, the ministers are corrupt.”

“The rosewood is piled up near the rivers; no one is trying to hide anything,” said Guy Suzon Ramangason, the director general of the organization that manages many of the parks. “Chinese businessmen pay the exporters and they in turn pay off the controllers like the police and the government.”

With all the AU/EU/US sanctions that have been coming into place to try and strangle the resources of the HAT, the only real recourse and money maker for the government is to turn to criminal activities to fill the void and since the HAT is criminal, this makes perfect sense. I thought that this would be their only source of income, but I was wrong. Not only does China seem to be responsible for the purchase of most of the illegal rosewood logs they are now getting rewarded with the opportunity to open a mine, which brings us to article #2 “China comes to the rescue with $100 million dollars for a mining project”:
Fresh money for state coffers. The Chinese consortium Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation (WISCO) has to pay the $ 100 million to the state of Madagascar. It is a payment as a right of making available to Soalala iron deposit, located north-west of the Big Island

Soalala is now become the largest mining project ever launched in Madagascar. It represents an estimated investment volume of 8 billion dollars and will generate up to 100,000 jobs.

The project’s outcome is a windfall Soalala important is timely for the regime transition. The organization of elections, among others, or the launch of some priority investments are all projects that become possible through this resource.

It appears that China is perfectly willing to prop up this illegal government so long as it benefits from it. Just look at the total investment volume and possible jobs! They have basically just put the HAT on life support and are directly contributing to the extension of this crisis! Unreal. Besides rescuing his government, it also gives Rajoelina a pretty good excuse to make it look like he is doing something for the people (i.e. exploit them). I am sure this will be a brilliant announcement for job opportunities, and revenue courtesy of the HAT and all the Malagasy people suffering will fill those 100,000 positions and will no doubt be working in sub-optimal conditions.
Finally,  debt forgiveness by Iraq and Russia. I have read somewhere that poor countries that borrow a lot of money, or use many of the programs offered by them stand to pay a lot of money in interest for the money they borrow. As it turns out, the HAT will be saving quite a bit of money in the form of loan forgiveness,  80% of a 234 million dollar loan (187.6 million) and 21 million dollars in interest payments from Russia. So now that this money is not obliged to be given to these countries, the HAT has had 208.6 million dollars freed up, that is, if they even had the intention of making payments.
The impoverished Indian Ocean island saw 187.6 million dollars waived from the 234-million-dollar loan after negotiations earlier this month, said the statement from Madagascar’s finance ministry.

The rest of the debt will be repaid interest free over the next seven years.

Madagascar reached a similar deal with Russia in January, resulting in the cancellation of 21 million dollars in interest accrued from a loan.

There was a funny comment made by Lova Rakotomalala on Twitter that pretty much sums up the Iraq loan forgiviness in under 140 characters:
lrakoto: U know U R not doing well when Iraq feels bad 4 U: RT@Manantsoa@haabanews: Iraq waives 80% of #Madagascar debthttp://bit.ly/bAXnR2

So true.
Looks like the HAT has been given an extension to continue tormenting Madagascar’s people, unfortunately.

Chaos in Tana

It’s unreal, but there was a clash between the FIGN (Forces d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Emmo-Reg (Malagasy Army) today in the capital.

I haven’t had time and don’t have time to look into things in great detail, but what I have seen so far is this:

  • There a statement late on the 19th where the FIGN announced that there will be a meeting on May 20 at 8am at the Mausoleum. Called on all people to join them and that they would protect them with their strength.
  • There was also a religious gathering also that had gathered to protest against recent acts of violence against various journalists and radio stations so they decided to heed the call.
  • The Madagasikara movement had planed to join the pastors in protest.
  • 4×4 s appeared at the Mausoleum to disrupt the pastors hymns.
  • Eight military trucks and a jeep then arrived at the Mausoleum erecting barracades.
  • A shoot out begins between the FIGN that are holed up with pastors and anyone else that was at the Mausoleum.
  • Reporters were not allowed on site, so the numbers reported for injuries and death cannot be validated (7 civilians wounded 3 dead).
  • 5 people were arrested including a pastor.
  • The clash appears to be the result of there not being a roadmap to resolve the crisis as was promised.

I am not quite sure what the current status is on anything, but needless to say we are reaching a boiling point. If we have come to factions fighting amongst one another with their side clearly chosen, that cannot bode well for the near future. Now everyone in Madagascar is sick of Rajoelina, even some with guns… but army who is more or less endorsing Rajoelina’s lame, same old road map are the only ones sticking up for him.

I am afraid to think of what comes next after this, usually these things are just the beginning of a bigger problem, but who knows. Perhaps what is worse is that there is no prospect of a resolution (since Rajoelina refuses to negotiate further and is unilaterally making decisions again). This can only serve to fuel more discontent with FIGN and supporters, so I can hardly see this dying down. Here are some links related to todays events:

Hopefully, there will be no further violence or deaths… but with the way Rajoelina is, he really isn’t leaving these people much of a choice.