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December 12 2013

Nelson Mandela's Death: ‘Left Us in Body, But His Spirit Is Eternal’

Since former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death on December 5, 2013, people throughout the world have reflected on the beloved leader's life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Here are 6 reactions from around the world :

United Kingdom

Musa Okwonga, a poet and author based in London, noted on his blog that Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary who went to war against injustice in his country before he was a symbol of peace and reconciliation:

Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. [..] You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” [..] Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

Madagascar

Mialisoa, a blogger in Antananarivo, Madagascar, expressed her deep respect and gratitude for the life lessons she's taken from Mandela in a post titled Bonne Route, Monsieur [fr] (Safe Travels, Sir):  

Un jour, Monsieur, je m’assoirais près de mes enfants et je leur lirais votre histoire. Un jour, mes enfants s’assoiront près de leurs enfants et ils leur liront votre histoire. Grâce à vous, je sais et grâce à vous, je continuerais à apprendre:
Je sais de qui parler, lorsque viendra le temps d’expliquer à mes enfants ce qu’est un homme de courage et de conviction.
Je sais de quels principes s’inspirer lorsque viendra le temps d’élever les miens.
Je sais l’importance de la réconciliation. Avec soi-même et avec son prochain.
Je sais la valeur du pardon.
Je sais le précieux de l’égalité.
Je sais qu’il est possible de rendre les hommes et soi-même, meilleurs.
Je sais le bien que créent l’humilité, l’humour et l’audace. [..] 
Je sais, Monsieur, que je n’en sais pas assez. Je sais bien que je suis loin de savoir. Aussi, la meilleure manière de vous rendre hommage, Monsieur, est de continuer à apprendre et apprendre à agir. Et que Dieu nous vienne en aide, car le temps d’agir est maintenant venu.
Monsieur, merci. Je vous souhaite une bonne route.

One day, sir, I will sit with my children and read them your story. One day, my children will sit with their children and read them your story. Thanks to you, I know and thanks to you, I will keep learning:
I know of whom to speak, when the time comes to explain to my children what makes a man of courage and conviction.
I know what principles to draw on when the time comes to raise mine.
I know the importance of reconciliation. With ourselves and with our fellow people.
I know the value of forgiveness.
I know the value of equality.
I know it is possible to make humankind and ourselves better.
I know the good that humility, humor, and boldness can do. [...] 
I know, sir, that I do not know enough. I know very well that I am far from knowing. So the best way to pay tribute to you, sir, is to continue to learn and learn to act. God help us, for the time to act has now come.
Thank you, sir. I wish you a safe journey. 

Toavina, a political analyst from Antananarivo,  recalled on his Facebook page Madagascar's role [fr] in supporting Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), the  resistance movement against apartheid and now South Africa's governing political party: 

N'oubliez pas chers Malgaches, que MADAGASCAR a aidé le peuple Noir Sud-Africain ! Nous avons hébergé sous la Deuxième Rep la Radio de l'ANC. Piet Botha, Ministre des affaires étrangères de l'Afrique du Sud est venu à Madagascar pour discuter du cas de l'afrique du Sud avec l'ancien président Ratsiraka. De Klerk est aussi venu à Mada dans les années 90.

Do not forget, dear Madagascans, that MADAGASCAR helped the back people of South Africa! We broadcasted ANC's radio station during our Second Republic. Pik Botha, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, came to Madagascar to discuss the South African situation with former President Ratsiraka. De Klerk also came to Madagascar in the '90s. 

Mali

While it was hard for him to find the words, Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices contributor in Bamako wanted to commemorate the man [fr]:

« repose en paix », car je n’ai pas de mots. Je n’ai pas de mots car tous les mots sont insignifiants pour exprimer ce que je veux dire. Alors, je me tais, je me tais dans mes murmures internes

“Rest in peace,” for I have no words. I have no words because no words are sufficient to express what I want to say. So, I'll stay silent, I'll keep quiet with my inner thoughts.

He added [fr]: 

Je suis fier qu'il y ait une Rue Mandela et une Ecole Mandela à Bamako au Mali. Je vais toute de suite pour une interview avec le Directeur de l'Ecole Mandela.

I am proud that there is a Mandela Street and a Mandela School in Bamako, Mali. I'm going to have an interview right away with the Mandela School's principal.

Here is the school in question:

This teacher at the #Mandela school began the morning by talking about the man with his first-grade students #Mali pic.twitter.com/0gwSg5lrPg
— Boukary Konaté (@Fasokan) December 6, 2013

Niger

Aminatou, a women's right activist in Niamey, Niger shared this thoughts [fr] about Mandela and education:

Mandela est une source inépuisable d’inspiration. Sa phrase sur l’éducation résonne fortement aux oreilles de tous :
« L’Éducation : l’arme la plus puissante que l’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde. »

Mandela is an endless source of inspiration. What he said about education resonates strongly with everyone:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

France

Archippe, a French-based Cameroonian blogger and president of Internet sans frontières, pointed out a lesson for African countries to take away on his Facebook page [fr]:

Nelson Mandela nous aura enseigné une chose essentielle à nous africains, à nous humains: on peut vraincre par les armes, le nombre, la rhétorique, mais la vraie victoire, celle qui marque les siècles, est celle de l'esprit enchanté. Le corps de mandela n'est plus, son esprit est éternel.

Nelson Mandela will have taught us, us Africans, us humans, one essential thing: We can conquer with weapons, with numbers, and with rhetoric, but the real victory, what leaves its mark for centuries, is that of the soul. Mandela has left us in body, but his spirit is eternal.

An Algerian leader, through Alexandre Adler, a well-known french political blogger, commented on the impact the “Mandela approach” [fr] of inter-ethnic reconciliation could have had in Algeria:

Il y a quelques années, un dirigeant algérien nous confia que la «ligne Mandela» de réconciliation inter-ethnique aurait évidemment mieux convenu à l’Algérie de 1962 que le départ précipité des Européens et des juifs qui fut consommé en moins d’un an. Mais, ajoutait-il, «à cette époque, nous n’avions pas les idées de Mandela, et celles-ci nous serviraient bien aujourd’hui».

A few years ago, an Algerian leader confided that the “Mandela approach” of interethnic reconciliation would have evidently been better for Algeria in 1962 than the sudden departure of Europeans and Jews that came to pass in less than a year. “But,” he added, “At the time, we didn't have Mandela's ideas, and today they would serve us well.”

5 Influential People from Madagascar Who You Should Know

In the current polarized political atmosphere of Madagascar (after elections last month, a presidential run-off is scheduled for December 20, 2013), there are very few personalities who are unanimously revered by Malagasy citizens. Take a closer look at five modern figures from Madagascar who have made a difference in the African island country.

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga, the Scientific Pioneer 

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso CC-BY-2.0

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga [fr] is by far the most renowned scientist from Madagascar. He was made famous by his extensive work on better understanding the healing properties of the unique endemic flora of Madagascar. He is credited with about 350 scientific publications on topics ranging from the function of the adrenal gland to natural remedies for diabetes.

He said the following about the interplay between nature and the Malagasy population [fr]:

Nous devons avancer à notre rythme, nous devons avant tout avoir confiance en nous-mêmes et dans les vertus thérapeutiques de la nature. Car la nature et l'homme ne font qu'un.

We need to proceed at our own pace, we need to trust ourselves and the healing virtues of nature. In the end, nature and man are nothing but one and the same entity.

In the following video in French, Ratsimamanga explains the body of his work and his passion for research:

The interview notes :

(Rastimamanga) a mis au service de son pays le fruit de ses connaisances modernes conciliées au savoir empirique des guérisseurs malgaches 

(Ratsimamanga) served his country by combining his modern scientific methodology with the empirical knowledge of Malagasy healers. 

Still, his scientific achievement is only half of his life story. He was also a major contributor to the Malagasy movement for independence from France as the co-founder of the the Association of Malagasy Students (AEOM), one of the pioneer organization in the struggle against colonialism.

Cover of Gisele Rabesahala biography via ocean editions CC-BY

Cover of Gisèle Rabesahala's memoir via ocean editions CC-BY

Gisèle Rabesahala, the Patriot 

Gisèle Rabesahala was one of the leaders of the struggle for Madagascar's independence. She was a journalist and political activist who founded the newspaper Imongo Vaovao. She was also the first Malagasy woman elected in 1958 as a representative for the city council of Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. She died in 2011, and the Internet was flooded with many tributes saluting her memory.   

Gradiloafo blog noted [fr] her many caritative efforts and her political activism: 

Dans le social, Gisèle Rabesahala a été la fondatrice de l'ONG Comité de solidarité de Madagascar ou « Fifanampiana malagasy » qui œuvre, en l'occurrence, dans l'aide aux démunis [..] Militante engagée dès son jeune âge dans la lutte pour la souveraineté du pays, elle était de tous les mouvements de jeunesse solidaires de la libération des pays sous la tutelle coloniale 

In her community work, Gisèle Rabesahala was the founder of the NGO “Fifanampiana Malagasy” [Solidarity for Madagascar], which strives to help the very poor [..] She was a committed activist at an early age in the struggle for sovereignty and was part of all the youth movements for the country's liberation from colonial rule.

Jean-Luc Raharimanana, the Guardian of Memory 

Raharimanana on flickr by Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana. Photo from Flickr user Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana is a Malagasy writer. By the age of 20, he had already won the Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo Poetry Prize for his early poems. His writings were recognized for their portrayal of the beauty of nature in its native home, but also its poverty and squalor, especially in the shanty towns. In his work, legends and old superstitions are juxtaposed with contemporary political events.

Catherine Bédarida, a literary critic from France, wrote about Raharimanana and his book “Nour, 1947″ [fr]:

 ”Nour, 1947″ son premier roman, est à la fois livre d'histoire, oratorio, récit poétique, pages battues par les vents, l'océan, le sel, le sang.  1947, c'est l'heure de l'insurrection malgache. La colonie française voit le retour de ses tirailleurs, enrôlés dans la deuxième guerre mondiale, qui rêvent de selibérer à leur tour de l'occupant. La répression fait des milliers de morts. [..] ” Les mots s'en sont allés et nous ont laissés sans mémoire “ : reconstituer la mémoire de Madagascar, telle est l'obsession du narrateur. 

“Nour, 1947″ is his first novel. It is all at once a historical fiction, an oral history, a poem battered by wind, sea, salt and blood. 1947 is the year of the Malagasy insurrection against the colonial period. French colonizers in Madagascar saw the return of the Malagasy legion that battled in France during WWII and now wanted to free their own nation from the settlers. The French repression killed thousands [..] He writes, “Words have come and gone and left us without memory”: this author's obsession is to reconstruct the memory of Madagascar 

Erick Manana, the Cultural Icon
Erick Manana is a singer and a songwriter described once as the “Bob Dylan of Madagascar”. His professional career as a musician began in 1982 as a member of the band Lolo sy ny Tariny. Manana is the recipient of several awards, and he performed at the historic Olympia venue in Paris to celebrate the 35th year of his career in 2013.

Uli Niebergall writes the following about Manana:

Manana's repertoire gracefully alternates between lyric ballads (e.g. “Tany niaviako”) and pop tunes with irresistibly wild and intricate rhythms (e.g. “Izahay tsy maintsy mihira”), and a grateful audience responds enthusiastically to every tone and syllable. Manana's lyrics often deal with the everyday life of Malagasy people. [..] Manana, however, doesn't limit himself to influences from his home country, but displays a distinct eclecticism in his choice of songs by other artists, both geographically and stylistically. For example, in reverence to Air Madagascar flying the distance between Paris and Antananarivo, he has remodeled “Amazing Grace” into a song called “Vorombe tsara dia” (The plane that flies well). He sings a Malagasy version of Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne” which sounds surprisingly fresh.

Here is a video of one of his most celebrated songs, “Izaha tsy maintsy mihira”:

Jacques Rabemananjara, the Political Prisoner  

Jacques Rabemananjara was a Malagasy politician, playwright and poet. Rabemananjara was born in town on the Bay of Antongil, on the Eastern Coast of Madagascar in 1913. Rabemananjara was recognized as the one of the most most prolific authors of the Negritude genre [fr], the literary and ideological movement developed by Francophone black intellectuals that rejected French colonial racism. Senghor, the famed Senegalese writer turned president, is the pioneer of the movement. He was suspected of being involved in the instigation of the failed 1947 Malagasy Uprising against colonial rule, despite the fact that he had urged the rioters to be calm. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour.

Green Integer blog recalled his life's achievements

After leaving school, Rabemananjara became an organizer of the first union of Malagsy civil servants, and co-founded La Revue des Jeunes de Madagascar, a journal which expressed nationalist sentiments at odds with the French rulers, who forced the magazine, after 10 issues, to cease publication. During the war years in France he met members of the negritude group, including Léopold Sédar Senghor and Alioune Diop, who contributed to the African journal Présence Africaine. [..] In 1947, however, Malagasy revolutionaries attacked a French military installation. The authorities retaliated by killing or wounding eighty thousand Malagasies. And, although there is no evidence that his Mouvement democratique de Renovation Malgache party was involved, Rabemananjara was threatened with death, suspected of having organized the uprising. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. His Antsa (Song), published in France in 1956, made him a national hero, and associated him even more closely with Senghor and Cesaire.

Rado, the Poet  

Georges Andriamanantena [mg], better known as Rado, is a renowned Malagasy poet who died five years ago. Yet his work has endured the test of time in Malagasy culture, including the Malagasy blogosphere.

Georges Andriamanantena via his facebook tribute page with permission

Georges Andriamanantena via a Facebook tribute page. Used with permission

Rado is a descendant of the rulers of the village of Amboanana in the Itasy Region, known as the home of the fiercest freedom fighters against French colonization. Tebokaefatra,  a malagasy blogger from Antananarivo,  wrote [mg] about how Rado's origins explained his unwavering patriotism:

“…ilay vohitra kely ao atsimon'Arivonimamo, izay nisehoan'ireo Menalamba sahy nanohitra voalohany indrindra ny Fanjanahantany teto Madagasikara. Araka izany koa dia mba nandova ny ran'ireo tia tanindrazana tsy nanaiky hozogain'ny vahiny.”

…the little village south of Arivonimamo, where the Menalamba, the fiercest and first opponents of colonization in Madagascar, originated. Rado inherited the patriotism of his forebearers who always refused any foreigners’ rule.

He valued his independence: even though he held a well paying job for a time, he resigned from that job and preferred to found his own newspaper called Hehy with his brother Celestin. He published seven books of poems, including Dinitra (1973), ny Voninkazo adaladala (2003) and ny fiteny roa (2008). Many of his poems were set to music by some of the most famous Malagasy artists. Maintikely, Malagasy blogger in Cape Town, RSA,  posted [mg] one of his poems. Here is an excerpt: 

Ho any ianao,kanefa….
Aza ataonao fantany izao fahoriako izao
Fa aoka hiafina aminy
Ny ketoky ny jaly
Nanempaka ny aiko,tanatin'ny longoa
Izay namandrihany ahy…
Ny dinitry ny foko manorika ahy mangina,
Fa sempo-tsasak'alina
Misaina ity anjarako,
Aza ataonao fantany!
[..]
Eny e ! Ampy izay.Tongava soa aman-tsara !
Dia akatony mora
Io varavarako io
Fa hitomany aho…
Rado, janoary 1966

You are meeting her, but…
Do not tell her about my suffering,
Let her ignore the bite of pain,
that is tearing up my being,
in the web she trapped me in,
My sweating heart that chokes me silently
at midnight
when I ponder my fate,
Do not let her know !
[..]
This is my message. Please do not forget.
And Adieu !
But before you go,
this hand of yours, do not touch anything with it,
until it links to hers…
Yes, that is it. Have a good journey.
And please do close that door
On my tears.
Rado, January 1996.

Mialy Andriamananjara contributed to this post.

December 05 2013

Five Little-known Energy Resources in Africa

Electricity supply problems are once again news in several African countries with recurring power outages in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Madagascar, to name just a few of those most recently affected.

In Benin, a private Nigerian company supplies much of the country’s electricity.

A report on the Kongossa blog [fr] describes the current situation in Cameroon.:

Malgré des investissements réalisés ces dernières années par la firme américano-camerounaise AES-SONEL chargée de la production, du transport, de la distribution et de la commercialisation de l’énergie électrique, le problème est loin d’être résolu.[..] Si à Douala et Yaoundé, les coupures d’électricité durent en moyenne quatre à six heures, dans d’autres localités des pays, notamment dans les zones rurales, des témoignages concordants rapportent que les coupures d’électricité peuvent durer jusqu’à trois jours d’affilé

Despite investments made these past years by the American-Cameroonian firm AES-SONEL in charge of production, transportation, distribution and sale of electrical energy, the problem is far from being resolved. [...] Power cuts in Douala and Yaoundé last on average four to six hours while in other areas of the country, notably in rural zones, eyewitnesses consistently report that power cuts can last up to three days in a row.

In Côte d’Ivoire, outages are so frequent that they are listed on the Facebook page of an imaginary supervillain, Delestron [a play on words with the French term for outage], created by Ivoirian internet users.

Finally, in Madagascar, many communities are furious with the national electricity company Jirama, accused of frequent failures to meet requirements. For example, in the community of Ambohibao Iavoloha [fr]:

Par exemple, la coupure totale sans avertissement qui a eu lieu entre le 06 et 11 novembre dernier. A partir du 11 au 15 novembre, les habitants ont été confrontés au délestage et l’électricité ne revient que le lendemain vers 2h du matin. Tel est le cas de l’électricité mais la faible pression de l’eau de la Jirama fait aussi grogner les habitants.

For example, the complete loss of power which happened without warning from November 6th to the 11th. From November 11th to the 15th, inhabitants had to put up with controlled outages and electricity was only available around 2am the following day. That is the situation regarding electricity, but the low water pressure from Jirama also gives inhabitants something to grumble about.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off since only 8.4 percent have access to electricity. However, in light of the growth projected [for Africa], the needs of the continent are certainly going to increase. In 2007, annual energy consumption from primary sources was only 15.4 British thermal units (Btu) per person. By comparison, global energy consumption per person per year was 70.8 Btu while that of Americans was 337.1 Btu (almost 22 times that of the mean in Africa).

However, the African continent is not lacking in natural resources which could meet the energy requirements. Any problems are exacerbated by the global intensification of the race towards energy independence. Many countries are turning to the natural resources of the African continent to supply their energy.

PIDA Africa Electricity Transportation Map

Programs for production and transportation of electricity in Africa by 2040. Map by PIDA, used with their authorisation.

Here are five of the lesser known energy sources  on the African continent:

Heavy Oil of Madagascar

Although Madagascar oil remains relatively unknown internationally-speaking, it has been the object of much speculation. Despite the political crisis, interest in the oil of Madagascar [from overseas] has never lessened. Madagascar news website author Antsa explained [fr] Japan’s interest:

Une délégation japonaise a rencontré les responsables du ministère des Hydrocarbures, à la recherche d'information sur la situation actuelle du secteur des ressources pétrolières, ainsi que des lois et règlementations en vigueur. «Malgré la crise politique, les investisseurs sont restés et d'autres viennent encore pour l'exploration de pétrole. Même s'ils ne sont que dans la phase d'exploration, des avantages sont déjà acquis, à l'exemple de la création d'écoles, d'hôpitaux, l’amélioration et le renforcement de capacité, etc. De plus, le gouvernement ne paie rien, malgré le partage de production», a informé le DG des Hydrocarbures. Notons que trois compagnies pétrolières japonaises ICEP, Jog Meg et Mitsibushi, s'intéressent actuellement à Madagascar.

A Japanese delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to find information on the current situation within the petroleum resources sector, as well as on the laws and rules in force. “Despite the political crisis, investors have stayed while others continue to come for the oil exploration. Even if they are only in the exploration phase, some advantages have already been seen, for example, schools and hospitals have been built or expanded, etc. What is more, the government pays nothing, despite sharing production”, stated the Hydrocarbons Manager. Three Japanese petroleum companies – ICEP, Jog Meg and Mitsibushi – are currently interested in Madagascar.

This growing interest from petroleum businesses could however bring risks. Holly Rakotondralambo, Madagascar partner of Friends of the Earth, explained [fr]:

Alors que les prix du pétrole et des métaux sont de plus en plus élevés en raison d’une demande mondiale croissante, les grandes entreprises et les investisseurs se ruent sur Madagascar. Dans un contexte politique très fragile, ce phénomène risque d'exacerber des conflits avec les populations et de dégrader, encore davantage, des écosystèmes très riches déjà en sursis.

Although oil and metal prices are higher because of growing global demand, big business and investors are rushing to Madagascar. In an extremely fragile political context, this phenomenon threatens to worsen conflicts with the people as well as further despoiling rich ecosystems already living on borrowed time.
natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

 
Natural resources of Madagascar and the companies competing to exploit them. Map published by the OMNIS agency on Facebook, used with permission

 

Tar Sands of the Republic of Congo

Tar sand deposits are an important source of synthetic crude oil. However, they are difficult to exploit and controversial because of their environmental impact. Italian company ENI is the first oil company to exploit the African tar sands. In the Congo, ENI collects tar sands 70km from Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, in the Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola regions. Exploitation of these bitumen-rich sands can be risky, as explained here by the blog Vivement la désintox [fr] [I can’t wait for the detox]:

Exploiter les sables bitumineux est la façon la plus sale, la plus chère et la plus énergivore de produire du pétrole. Extraire 1 baril de pétrole bitumineux nécessite 5 barils d'eau et émet jusqu’à 5 fois plus de gaz à effet de serre que le pétrole conventionnel. L’extraction des sables bitumineux est également synonyme de déforestation et de pollution des eaux. En effet, afin de séparer le pétrole du sable, les compagnies injectent des solvants qui polluent massivement les sols et les rivières.

Exploiting tar sands is the dirtiest, most expensive, most energy-demanding way to produce oil. Extracting one barrel of tar oil takes five barrels of water and releases up to five times more greenhouse gases than normal oil. Extraction of tar sands is also synonymous with deforestation and water pollution. In order to separate the oil from the sand, the companies inject solvents which pollute massively the soil and rivers.

The Windmills of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde islands are the site of the largest windmill farm in Africa. The electricity production equipment on four of the islands could lead to the greatest supply of electricity from wind energy in the world (in proportion to the size of the country), as explained in the following video:

Juan Cole explained the country’s wind energy gamble:

The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for mass emigration of the population. Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The Potential of Solar Energy in Benin

With energy consumption growing rapidly in Benin, (and estimated to grow by 11% in future years by the state Electrical Energy Company), lack of investment in the sector coupled with losses during distribution and transportation (of around 18-30%) are the main reasons of the current necessity for controlled outages. Leomick Sinsin, a blogger from Benin, described the potential advantages of investing in photovoltaic energy [fr] in his country:

Avec un rayonnement variant de 3 à 6 kWh par m² selon la position géographique, le principal atout d’une installation solaire en Afrique est sa capacité à fournir suffisamment de puissance pour répondre aux besoins quotidiens. D’autre part, l’avantage d’un système solaire est la décentralisation du système de production. Quand l’on connait la vétusté des infrastructures existantes, nul ne saurait contredire le bien fondé d’un système où le site de production juxtaposerait le point de consommation. Le bon exemple est la maison isolée avec des modules surplombant la toiture. [..] Le dernier argument et pas des moindres est le travail d’efficacité énergétique qu’ impose une installation solaire. Un système solaire est une énergie intermittente qui dépend de plusieurs paramètres comme la météo, la qualité de l’installation etc. De ce fait, la consommation implique un recours vers des appareils sobres et peu énergivores. Nous réduisons ainsi le niveau de consommation tout en préservant le même niveau d’utilité.

With power varying from 3 to 6 kWh/m2 depending on geographical position, the main advantage of solar installations in Africa is their capacity to provide enough power to answer daily needs. Another advantage of solar power systems is decentralisation of production. Knowing the antiquity of the existing infrastructure, no-one could be against starting a system where the production site is beside the point of use. A good example is a remote house with panels on the roof. [...] Last but not least, the work towards energy efficiency that a solar installation imposes. Solar power gives intermittent energy which depends on several parameters such as the weather, quality of the installation, etc. As a result, its usage implies a move towards energy-saving equipment. In this way the level of consumption can be reduced while keeping the same degree of usability.

Geothermic energy from the Rift Valley

Recently, several energy companies have stressed the importance of geothermic energy as both a response to the energy needs for countries within the Horn of Africa [Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia] and the Rift Valley as well as an integral part of the program for “green growth”. SciDev.Net reported that Djibouti could become a major player [fr] in geothermic energy:

Le potentiel d'énergie géothermique de la région du Lac Assal de ce pays, qui se trouve dans la vallée du Rift, est à l'étude [..] La production d'énergie sur le lac Assal pourrait commencer en 2018 pour un coût de US$ 240 millions, générant 40 à 60 mégawatts. La BAD recommande que les partenariats entre les secteurs public et privé développent ces projets d'énergie en raison de leurs coûts élevés.

The potential of geothermic energy in the Lake Assal region of this country in the Rift Valley is being studied [...] Energy production around Lake Assal could start in 2018 for a cost of 240 million US Dollars, generating 40 to 60 megawatts. The BAD recommend that public and private sector partnerships develop these energy projects due to their high cost.

G. Pourtier added that Ethiopia is also starting to explore thermal energy [fr]:

Située à 200 km au sud d'Addis-Abeba, la capitale éthiopienne, la nouvelle centrale produira d'abord 20 MW à partir de 2015, puis 500 MW en 2018 et enfin 1 GW quelques années plus tard [..]. La surface acquise par Reykjavik Geothermal en Éthiopie couvre 6500 km2, dont 200 km2 ont déjà été identifiés et où la température s'élève à 350°C.

Located 200 km south of Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, the new power station will start producing 20 MW from 2015, then 500 MW in 2018 and finally 1 GW several years later [...] The area acquired by Reykjavik Geothermal covers 6500 km2, of which 200 km2 have already been identified as having temperatures reaching 350°C.

November 19 2013

Long-Awaited Madagascar Elections Go to Second Round

Madagascar is headed to a presidential run-off. Results have been slow to trickle in since elections were held on October 25, 2013 -the first since a military-backed coup in 2009- but the final tally shows that candidate Jean-Louis Robinson won 21.1 percent of the vote, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina won about 15.9 percent. 

The second round is scheduled for December 20. These two candidates are considered to be proxies for former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted in 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who is the current transition president. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were barred from the presidential elections.

The elections were highly anticipated, and while polling was “largely peaceful” and international observers were quick to describe the process as “free and fair”, many potential voters were prevented from casting their vote due to problems with the electoral lists, allAfrica.com reported.

The two candidates remaining in the run off JL Robinson (left) and H  Rajaonarimampianina. Photo via Ta Ramses on Facebook (with permission)

The two candidates who will go to the second round of elections: Jean-Louis Robinson (left) and Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Photo via Ta Ramses on Facebook (used with permission)

Bloggers reacted to the results. Lalatiana Pitchboule, on his blog [fr], wrote:

Au cœur d’un bureau populaire lors de la soirée électorale, je peux témoigner de l’enthousiasme de nos citoyens vis-à-vis du processus. Et de leur respect des résultats. Magnifique illustration de démocratie populaire ou chaque bulletin annoncé faisait l’objet d’une joyeuse approbation.

I was present in a polling station during the electoral night and I can attest to the enthusiasm of our citizens for the electoral process. I witnessed their respect of the results. Magnificent show of democracy where each vote announced was saluted by joyous approval

A video from Tossoa Bacca illustrated the atmosphere at a polling station [mg]:

Others tried to project the results of the second-round vote based on first-round results:

#mdg2013: A map of the results per district can give indication of how the run off might look like… http://t.co/X1FT6qzOEc

#Madagascar: Candidate JL Robinson cannot win. The HAT [The Transitional Authority] will do anything to stay in power.

Some pessimistic voices already predict yet another crisis, as reported on Radio France Internationale [fr]:

tous les ingrédients d’une nouvelle crise sont d’ores et déjà présents : des institutions peu fiables, une élection organisée à la va-vite sans le préalable d’un contexte apaisé… D’ailleurs, plusieurs candidats ont demandé l’annulation du premier tour. L’un de ses propres alliés a accusé le candidat d’Etat, Monsieur Hery Rajaornarimampianina, d’avoir enfreint les règles et a exigé sa disqualification ! Les exemples de contestation de la sincérité du vote sont légion. Dans ce contexte, si le candidat d’Etat devait remporter au deuxième tour, il n’aurait jamais la légitimité nécessaire pour asseoir son autorité présidentielle.

Il n’y a aucune chance que le candidat de l’opposition gagne les élections car ceux qui tiennent l’Etat aujourd’hui feront tout pour garder le pouvoir. Le « ni-ni » (ni candidature de Rajoelina ni celle de Ravalomanana) a été une énorme erreur, comme les résultats du premier tour le montrent. Les électeurs ont remis en selle les deux camps qui étaient responsables de la crise de 2009 et ont éliminé tous ceux qui se revendiquaient de la troisième voie

All ingredients for a new crisis are already present: weak institutions, hastily organized elections without previously appeasing the environment… Additionally, several candidates have requested annulment of the first rounds. One of his own allies has accused the transitional regime's candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, of having transgressed rules and demanded his disqualification! Examples of rebuttal of votes’ reliability abound. In this context, if the transitional regime's candidate would win the second rounds, he would never have the necessary legitimacy to settle his presidential authority.

There is no chance that the opposition's candidate win the elections because those who are in power today will do anything to keep it. The “neither nor” (neither Rajoelina's nor Ravalomanana's candidacies were accepted) was a monumental mistake, as demonstrated by the first round results. Voters reestablished both sides responsible for the 2009 crisis and eliminated all those who requested a third way.

Meanwhile, despite electoral laws prohibiting the transition president from explicitly coming out in favor of a candidate, Andry Rajoelina has publicly confirmed his support of Rajaonarimampianina, his former Minister of Finance. Radio France Internationale [fr] reported:

“Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa, professeur de droit à l'Université d'Antananarivo, le confirme : « Ce soutien d'Andry Rajoelina peut amener à la disqualification d'Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Pour ça, il faudrait que la Cour électorale spéciale [CES, ndlr] soit saisie d'une requête, et quelle détermine si, dans les faits, Hery Rajaonarimampianina a bénéficié, ou bénéficie, du soutien d'Andry Rajoelina. »

Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa, Law Professor at the University of Antananarivo, confirms : “Andry Rajoelina's support can lead to Hery Rajaonarimampianina's disqualification. For this to happen, the Special Electoral Court would investigate and determine if in fact, Hery Rajaonarimampianiana has benefited, or benefits, from Andry Rajoelina's support”.

Journalist Sébastien Hervieu reported the reaction of the opposition candidate to this well-known but unexpected support [fr]:

Friday, Robinson Jean Louis told me he would request Rajoelina's resignation if he officialy supported a candidate

Susanne compared electoral season to Carnival in Madagascar:

“In Madagascar voting is not so obvious. The are no political parties. No election manifestos. No ideology, no left- or right-, or center, no Republicans or Democrates [sic]. It's hard to make an informed choice if you can not [sic] compare programs. So how can a candidate capture a voter's attention? With T-shirts. Many t-shirts. And songs. One candidate is called Sylvain. His slogan is “Sylvain sur vingt” (quite funny). His song is brilliant: Bye Bye unemployment, bye bye famin[e], bye bye disease.  To me, half of the songs sounds like straight from church, the others like Caribbean carnival hits. Some candidates even dress like calypso artists.”

October 31 2013

Madagascar Still Waiting for Presidential Election Results

It has been six days since Madagascar's long-awaited elections were finally held, the first since the last democratically elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, was ousted during a military-backed coup in 2009.

Results have been trickling in since Friday, October 25, 2013, and the wait has kept social media aflame.

The international community has deemed the elections as “free and fair”:

But some regret the haste of the international community in embracing the elections, as many citizens have been unable to vote due to their voting cards not having been delivered or their names mysteriously missing on polling lists. Ndimby [fr], a prominent Malagasy blogger since the start of the political crisis post-coups, described the actions of the CENI-T, which is organizing the elections:

S’il est vrai que la journée du 25 octobre s’est relativement bien déroulée, le processus électoral va bien au-delà de cette date, jusqu’à la proclamation des résultats et au positionnement des vaincus. Contrairement aux éjaculateurs précoces de l’observation internationale, attendons qu’une masse critique de résultats sorte, qu’une tendance véritablement nationale se dégage, que l’étendue des problèmes et incidents recensés soit définie, et que les vaincus reconnaissent leur défaite, avant de dire que le premier tour s’est bien passé.

[...]

Au stade de dépouillement et de compilation où nous sommes, il est encore trop tôt pour crier à la fraude, et encore moins pour crier victoire. L’arrivée des 90% de résultats restants peut faire changer les choses, augmenter certains scores et en baisser d’autres. Une fois encore, il faut tenter de garder la tête froide et ne pas se laisser embarquer par les appels à la protestation contre les tentatives de fraude, ou aux appels à célébration de victoire. Ceci étant dit, la lenteur de la CENI-T dans la publication des résultats (à commencer par ceux dont son siège est pourtant proche géographiquement) n’est pas fait pour éloigner la suspicion. Et il faudrait que la CENI-T rectifie le tir, avant que les gens ne commencent à se demander si les erreurs de listes et de cartes électorales étaient vraiment des erreurs, ou bien le résultat d’une stratégie en vue de préparer, si nécessaire, des prétextes pour annulations massives de vote dans un réservoir de voix qui serait a priori anti-Rajoelina. Quoiqu’il en soit, seul le temps permettra de déterminer si ces défaillances conjointes de la CENI-T, des fokontany et du personnel des bureaux de vote, ont été des cas isolés, et si leur fréquence et leur étendue pourraient avoir un impact significatif. On pourra en effet se poser des questions sur ce qui se passe en régions et en zones rurales, quand on sait que même dans la Capitale, avec les moyens de transports et de communication qui y existent, il y a tellement eu de ratés.

It is true that the elections on October 25 went relatively well, but the voting process goes well beyond this date, and includes the announcement of results and the reactions of losing candidates. In disagreement with the dysfunctional international observers, let us wait until a critical mass of results are published, until truly national patterns emerge, until the scope of issues and events are defined, until the losers acknowledge their defeat, before proclaiming that the first rounds went well.

[...]

While we are still opening ballots and compiling numbers, it is too early to suspect vote rigging, and even too early to proclaim any victory. The arrival of 90 percent of the remaining votes could well change things, increase some scores and decrease others. Once again, we should keep cool and not let ourselves get entangled in protests against fraud, or victory celebrations. This said, the slowness of the CENI-T in publishing the results (starting with results which are geographically close to its headquarters) does encourage suspicion. The CENI-T has to pick up its game, or people will start to wonder if polling list mistakes and missing voting cards were really that – mistakes – and not part of a strategy aiming to prepare, if necessary, excuses for denying voting rights to those residing in precincts that would have gone in their majority against [the country's current transition president and presidential candidate] Rajoelina. Only time will determine if the combined failures of the CENI-T, voting stations and their personnel were isolated cases, or if their scope could have a significant impact. One could really wonder what is happening in rural regions, when we know that even in the capital city, with existing communication and transportation means, so many failures happened.

The CENI-T has found itself the target of much criticism for its difficulties in publishing accurate election results quickly. Its website was hacked not long after the election, as shown in this Twitter update:

why were the results of the election by polling station removed from the official page of the electoral committee ? Sign the petition ! https://t.co/hIiYEZ2mf4

A Photoshop message humorously said that the CENI-T was busy rigging votes and that it will come back later, as seen in this tweet:

It says: “website busy rigging the vote” Hahaha

Barijaona, one of the very first bloggers in Madagascar and a self-described geek, is familiar with the analysis of large databases in finance. With the results from various polling stations slowly trickling in, he wrote a script [fr] that allows anyone interested in Malagasy electoral analytics to transfer the official results published as a PDF document into a spreadsheet, and therefore verify that the official numbers make sense. He also wrote statistical model to project the final results of the elections. The official results from all the regions are taking days to come in. Therefore, with only a fraction of the regions officially in, Barijaona ran the voting data available on October 27, and then again on October 29, and came to very similar results. He concluded that [fr] the two front runners are probably set to face each other the 2nd round of the election:

Les résultats me paraissent remarquablement stables entre ces deux traitements, et si les résultats finaux s'écartent beaucoup de ces chiffres, il y aura vraiment de quoi s'étonner… 

The results are remarkably stable between the two candidates, and if the final results differ from these numbers, it would be amazing… .

Two initiatives are crowdsourcing irregular elections events:

Meanwhile, some keep calm and carry on:

October 25 2013

Madagascar On Tenterhooks As Election Proceeds

It is finally election day in Madagascar. The elections have been postponed three times this year alone, since the 2009 coup catapulted the country to international pariah status. The BBC has a comprehensive summary of the events of the last four years leading to this less than perfect electoral situation: 

The polls will be run by the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (Cenit) – an independent electoral body funded by the United Nations.

No firm date has been set to announce the results but if no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes cast, a second round will be held on 20 December, along with the parliamentary elections.

Cenit says there are 7,697,382 registered voters and 20,115 polling stations in Madagascar, a country the size of France with a scattered population.

Since this morning, voters have been lining up to cast their ballots and choose the future President from among an unprecedented 33 candidates.

Citoyenne Malgache is among those who were eager to vote.

Donc dès 6h30, j’étais présente sur les lieux de vote. Il y avait déjà du monde, et c’était calme. Des responsables m’ont gentiment orienté vers le bureau où je pouvais vérifier si mon nom figurait sur la liste. Des centaines de cartes y attendaient que leur propriétaire vienne les réclamer. Une responsable parcourt le listing des 4 bureaux de vote pour chercher mon nom.  Elle me demande si je veux faire le miala nenina et appelle un autre responsable qui reconsulte consciencieusement les 4 listes avant de me demander si j’avais reçu la carte bleue. Une dame au regard inquisiteur me pose la question : Avez-vous voté lors du referendum ? La réponse est non.

Bref, on me dit de venir m’inscrire au bureau du Fokontany dès lundi pour pouvoir voter au 2ème tour. Mais il n’est pas encore sûr que j’aurai encore envie de voter à ce moment là.

Allons-enfants de la patrie, le jour de vote est arrivé. Mais ce n’est pas encore aujourd’hui que j’aurai le droit de m’exprimer. Pour moi, aujourd’hui n’aura été qu’un bâillon de plus. Et aussi un pont de plus que je vais pour une fois apprécier.

At 6:30 am, I was at the voting area. There were already people there, and things were calm. Those in charge politely directed me to the office where I was able to verify if my name was on the electoral list. Hundreds of voting cards were waiting for their owners to claim them. The lady in charge reads through the listing for four polling stations, looking for my name. She asks me if I want to make a last hope request and calls another person, who consciously reads the four lists again, before asking me if I had received the blue card. A lady looks at me questioningly and asks whether I invoted during the referendum. The answer is no.

Finally, they tell me I can come and register at the Fokontany office from Monday onwards, so I'd be able to vote in the run-off elections. But I'm not sure that I will want to vote at that time.

Allons-enfants de la patrie, voting day has arrived! But today isn't yet the day that I'll have the right to exercise that right. For me, today will be will be nothing more than yet another gag. And also one more bridge that I shall for once be able appreciate. 

On the ground, voters tweet about irregularities.

Urgent: According to the candidate, Rajemison, on his official Facebook page, in Ambohibao they're paying voters to vote for Hery, #3 candidate.

Tahina tweets a picture of the single ballot:

On the HuffingtonPost, Jason Pack, a researcher of African History at Cambridge University and President of Libya-Analysis.com, is skeptical about the outcome. 

Malagasies will supposedly choose who will lead them through these turbulent times. Because that choice is likely to be little more than an electoral farce, the international community will also have to make a choice. Will they turn a blind eye to electoral manipulation and rampant “irregularities” while congratulating themselves in diplomatic circles for steering Madagascar back to democracy? Or will they send a message that governments that come to power by breaking the key rules of democracy do not get rewarded with aid and diplomatic recognition?

Unfortunately, it seems most likely that the reality in Madagascar will once more be obscured by a cartoon caricature.

Finally, in a humorous tweet, Faly Kizitina (“The happy grumbler”), wonders how hard the SADC election observers are really working (there are 300 SADC observers deployed in Madagascar). 

 

October 24 2013

Madagascar Goes to the Polls, Four Years after the Coup

Tomorrow, Madagascar is set to hold elections, four years after a coup plunged the country into political, economical and social turmoil :

Thirty-three candidates are competing tomorrow to replace Rajoelina, who deposed President Marc Ravalomanana almost five years ago, causing the African Union to suspend the country and donors including the U.S. to freeze at least $400 million in aid. That forced the government to scale back services including education, water and health care, deepening poverty in the world’s second-biggest vanilla-producing nation Among the top contenders are former Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina; Jean Louis Robinson, a medical doctor and former cabinet minister under Ravalomanana; Roland Ratsiraka, a nephew of ex-President Didier Ratsiraka; and ex-Foreign Minister Pierrot Rajaonarivelo.

 The mood amongst bloggers is mixed.

Rabelazao sees some hope and relief and is looking forward to voting [mg]: 

Ny latsa-batoko dia kiry manantena ampitso mibaliaka ho an'i Madagasikara.  Ny latsa-batoko dia midika fahavononana hanarina ny rava ary hanohy ny lalantsika.  Ny latsa-batoko dia antso hamerenana ny safidy sy ny zo ho an'ny mpiray tanindrazana amiko.  Ny latsa-batoko dia finoana tsy mihambahamba fa hiray hina sy hihavana ny vahoaka Malagasy.  Ny latsa-batoko dia miandrandra ny hamela lova tsara ho an'ireo taranako. 

My vote is a hope for a happy future for Madagascar. My vote means readiness to build from the ruins and continue our path. My vote is a cry for re-establishing choices and rights for my countrymen. My vote is a non wavering belief in cohesion amongst the people. My vote is a desire to leave my descendants a meaningful legacy.

Others like Jentilisa [mg]worry about the inconsistencies and failures of the poll organizations.

Maro dia maro ny olona tsy tafiditra anaty lisi-pifidianana ary antony maro samihafa no nahatonga izany. Ny mampihomehy dia iray trano izao, ary loham-pianakaviana izao, dia tsy tafiditra anaty lisitra, nefa ilay loham-pianakaviana no nanao sonia ny famenoana ny taratasy fa ny ankohonana tao aminy indray no tafiditra soa aman-tsara. Maro ny tsi-fetezan-javatra ka ny vahoaka indray no nomena tsiny ho tsy mandray andraikitra. Efa fanao eto amin'ity tanindrazana ity ilay fanilihana andraikitra.

Many voters did not make it on the electoral list, due to many reasons. The funny thing is that in the same household, the head of household is not on the electoral list, even though he signed the voter enrollment form, but members of his household are on the list. There are many failures in the voting process, but voters are being blamed for being irresponsible. It is customary in this country to dodge responsibility.

October 21 2013

Why I'm Not Giving Up On Politicians (Yet)

“Sort out this problem because we are suffering”. Students on strike in Madagascar, by Jentilisa (used with permission)

“Sort out this problem because we are suffering”. Students on strike in Madagascar, by Jentilisa (used with permission)

On October 25, 2013, my home country of Madagascar will finally be electing a new president. In recent years the citizens of Madagascar have witnessed their economy plunge into the abyss, its natural resources pillaged. According to some estimates, more than four million people have entered into severe poverty in the past five years. There is currently no rule of law in the country, and ever since the 2009 coup d'état carried out by a fringe of the army removed the elected government and parliament, the political system had been devoid of legitimacy.

Elections have been pushed back five times since the coup, and a transition that was supposed to take one year at most has now lasted as long as the average electoral term. Even given Madagascar's complicated history, to say that the political situation is a mess is an understatement.

33 presidential candidates will contest the upcoming elections. With the vote only four days away, a significant number of potential voters still doubt that the elections will actually take place, as they have not received their voting cards. It's still an open question whether a sufficient quantity of ballots will be printed in time.

Whatever happens on October 25, this is a turning point for Madagsacar, so I figured it was the perfect time for me to jump into the political fray for the first time, and actively support one of only two women running for president. I have volunteered to help the campaign of Sahara Georget Rabeharisoa, the Green Party leader since 2009, by raising awareness of her cause and explaining her platform online.

These days, an overriding mistrust of politics and politicians seems to be the de rigueur position for most voters worldwide. The Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that the majority of countries now distrust their governments. And how can we blame them? The list of dysfunctional policies worldwide, ranging from government shutdowns to blatant concealing of nuclear disaster, is too long to mention.

Yet, for all our misgivings, politics and political activism remains the only effective way societal change has been brought about through history.

I have been involved in various Malagasy civil society projects (here and here), and I know the value they can bring to communities. I have also seen how all their great work can be undone in the blink of eye because of dirty politics and an unnecessary political crisis. I like to think it is the anger over the dashed hopes of my fellow activists that is driving me to jump into the arena. Some rotten practices can only be changed from the inside. The young Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, said it best when she explained why she switched her career goal from becoming a doctor to politics: “I think it's really good because through politics I can serve my whole country, become doctor of the whole country, help children get education.”

Unlike Malala, I think my main motivation has been to move away from the comfortable position of “observer”, because neutrality is the product of fear and lack of courage to take a stand. As Dante Alighieri said, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Make no mistake, the crisis in Madagascar is way past the political phase. It has long become a societal and a moral crisis, with most of the burden carried by an already overtaxed population.

I am not saying that the Green Party of Madagascar and their candidate Saraha Georget Rabeharisoa will have all the answers. But Saraha and I share similar reasons for getting into politics. She was the director of the non-governmental organization New Mind until the political crisis pushed her to raise her voice, then form her own party. 

She possesses the kind of clarity of purpose and principle that one wishes to see in the head of a country. She knows that there no magic pill that will lift Madagascar out of poverty, but she believes that nothing will happen until we consider the ecosystem that is our country in its entirely: our youth, our land and natural resources, and the need to let all of these develop in a balanced fashion.

I support Saraha because she is a woman, and because she's already been battle-tested by her efforts to carve out a space for herself in a heavily male-dominated field. I support Saraha because she has her sleeves rolled up and is ready to work hard.

Maybe I am too optimistic, but I this is a decision I have considered carefully. You can read the thought process behind my decision to support her here (in French).

At the end of the day, it just did not feel right to stay on the sidelines and watch as my country spirals further down into a bottomless pit. I believe all hands should get on deck, starting October 25, by voting and participating actively in the election debate.

As a Malagasy living abroad, I cannot cast my own vote. But as an engaged citizen, I want my voice to be heard. I believe that there are still a few politicians out there willing to fight for a sustainable recovery in Madagascar. Saraha Rabeharisoa is one of these. My homeland deserves as much.

Lova Rakotomalala is a researcher in biomedical engineering and consultant in Global Health. Raised in Madagascar, he has a strong interest in international development and digital media as a tool to promote social change and transparency in the developing world. 

October 20 2013

Des personnes ayant un handicap reconditionnent des ordinateurs à la REUNION pour des élèves à…

Des personnes ayant un handicap reconditionnent des ordinateurs à la REUNION pour des élèves à MADAGASCAR !

Cela passe par le test de l’alimentation électrique et des épreuves exigeantes pour les écrans, afin de vérifier qu’ils sont en bon état de marche ;-)

Récupérer des ordinateurs à La Réunion, les remettre à niveau, pour ensuite les envoyer à Madagascar au profit des lycées de la grande île. C’est l’objectif du projet « Nou la refé », qui mêle recyclage, insertion et coopération régionale, en faisant collaborer associations, entreprises privées et établissements publics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4jUXoC3mt9I

#recycler-vieux-pc
#madagascar
#handicap
#lycée

October 02 2013

Online Tool to Review Candidates Platforms in Madagascar

Malagasy website Madatsara created a comparison website to review every presidential candidates platforms [fr]. The platforms were categorized into 9 main topics to help citizens make an informed decision during the elections. The presidential election is set to commence on October 25, 2013 :

Review of all candidates platforms for 2013 elections by Madatsara (with permission)

Review of all candidates platforms for 2013 elections by Madatsara (with permission)

September 19 2013

90% of Madagascar Lives On Less Than Two Dollars a Day. Why?

Less than two months from the country's planned election date, there are several questions being asked about the future of Madagascar. In the first installment of our examination of the Malagasy crisis, we discussed the political obstacles that stand in the way of a long-term solution to the crisis. In this chapter, we will discuss the socio-economic decline of the island; its causes (which are not exactly as clear-cut as some may think); and the solutions that ought to be considered.

Le marché de Toliara - via wikimédia CC-NC-BY 3.0

The Toliara market – from Wikimedia CC-NC-BY 3.0

Political impasse and economic decline

The political crisis and the abrupt economic decline of Madagascar are very closely linked. Nevertheless, the four years spent in a deadlock do not fully explain the chronic poverty in the country. The consequences of the political crisis on the population are undeniable. Madagascar is currently the poorest country in the world with 90 percent of its population living on less than two US dollars per day. This transition has already been drawn out over four years and continues on to the detriment of the Madagascan people who are eager for the debate to shift from “who will govern” to “how are we going to get out of this crisis,” as is illustrated in the video below [fr]:

The statistics are hard to argue with: the consequences of the political crisis on the people of Madagascar [fr] are tragic and have plunged the majority of the population into an indescribable poverty. The report from the World Bank breaks down [fr] the different areas that have been struck by this crisis:

Le nombre d'enfants non scolarisés a peut-être augmenté de plus de 600.000. La malnutrition aiguë des enfants reste un problème critique. Dans certaines zones, elle a augmenté de plus de 50%. De nombreux centres de soins de santé ont été fermés [..] les recettes fiscales sont en baisse, la fraude fiscale a augmenté, et la capacité à maintenir le niveau des dépenses globales est remise en cause [..] 60% de la récolte de riz est menacée. La crise politique représente un obstacle à la mise en place d'une réponse appropriée.

The number of out-of-school children has increased, possibly by more than 600,000. Acute child malnutrition remains critical, having increased in some areas by more than 50 percent. Numerous health care centers have closed [...] Tax revenues are falling, tax evasion has increased, and the capacity to hold the line on overall spending is strained [...] 60 percent of the rice crop is endangered. Here too, the political crisis acts as an impediment to mounting an appropriate response.

The crisis (and those responsible for it) has certainly been damaging to the country, but the real underlying causes of the country's economic decline and poverty are not to be found in this debacle. After all, chronic poverty has haunted this country since well before 2009.

The causes of the crisis and the foreseeable solutions

A study led by Mireille Razafindrakoto, François Roubaud and Jean-Michel Waschberger revisits some 50 years of economic history of Madagascar and attempts to draw out the causes of an apparently persistent economic malaise. The article, which is entitled “L'enigme et le paradoxe” (The Enigma and the Paradox) [fr], states that there are no specifically identifiable causes that can explain the country's decline, but rather, that the cycle of social unrest is due to a fragmentation of classes and an inertia surrounding any idea of progressing to a more inclusive society (A PDF of the full study is available here) [fr].

Courbe de croissance du PIB de différents pays africains via la présentation publique de l'étude

The Malagasy Enigma: Graph of the GDP Growth of various African countries (courtesy the public presentation of the study)

In fact, the study focuses on the natural tendency towards centralization and the tendency of various authorities in Madagascan society to personalize power. This type of appropriation of power, along with the growing exclusivity of the elites in relation to the rest of the country has a tendency give rise to political instability and calls into question the legitimacy of institutions. As the study states [fr]:

Il résulte de ces éléments une coupure abyssale entre les élites et la population. Dans les grandes villes,
un tout petit groupe de privilégiés bénéficie de conditions de vie qui les rapprochent des citoyens des pays
développés (les “élites globalisées”) alors qu'une immense majorité de la population vit à un niveau de
subsistance et reste enfermée dans des trappes de pauvreté. [..]Les paysans malgaches et bien des travailleurs du secteur informel ne sont en effet véritablement « capturés » ni par le système politique – en dépit de la légitimité (ou du soutien de façade) qu’ils accordent a priori au détenteur du Fanjakana, ni par le système économique.[..] Parmi les pays où les mêmes questions ont été posées, Madagascar est celui où la légitimité des institutions (justice, police, administration fiscale) apparaît la plus faible. Cette situation, particulièrement inquiétante, témoigne de l’ampleur de la détérioration de la confiance dans l’Etat.

What arises from these factors is a deep fission between the elite and the rest of the population. In large towns, a very small group of privileged people enjoy living conditions that mirror those of the developed world (the global elite). Meanwhile the vast majority of the the population lives at a bare subsistence level and remain trapped in the cycle of poverty. The people of Madagascar and many of those who work under-the-table are not in fact truly “captives” of the political system – in spite of the (semblance of) legitimacy that is given preemptively to whoever is the keeper of the fanjakana (traditional order and values); nor are they captives of the economic system [...]. Among all of the countries where similar questions have been asked, Madagascar is the one where the legitimacy of institutions (justice, police, fiscal government) seems to be weakest. This situation which is particularly worrisome bears witness to the extent of the waning confidence in the state.

A study by American researcher Charlotte McDonald supports the notion that separation between the elite and the majority of the people continues to grow. The study of the Madagascan census figures suggests that a significant part of the population is not even counted in the population reports. This situation can only have a negative impact on any attempts to drive development [fr]:

un vaste nombre de Malgaches est inconnu par l’Etat et ces gens sont forcément desservis. Ce n’est pas une exagération de dire que sans un recensement régulier, Madagascar ne pourrait jamais atteindre son potentiel

The state is unaware of the existence of a large number of Madagascans and these people are inevitably under-served. It is not an exaggeration to say that without a regular census Madagascar will never be able to reach its potential.

One symptom of the elite's takeover, and the disregard for the larger population can be seen in the way mining projects have been managed in recent years. Jean-Luc Hariniaina and Serge Zafimahova provide some context to how Mainland Mining Company Ltd has managed its exploits of ilmenite [fr] in the region of Manakara:

La société MAINLAND a commis d’énormes irrégularités suite aux manquements constatés quant à l’application des Cahiers de Charges Environnementales (CCE) du projet et certainement à certains dispositifs des lois et textes réglementaires malagasy en matière d’environnement et d’exploitation minière [..] Suite à l’implantation de la société MAINLAND, la population de Manakara a tiré la sonnette d’alarme. Il existe une mobilisation du peuple Antemoro dont les pouvoirs traditionnels ou coutumiers et des entités et personnes de bonne volonté à lutter contre les fraudes à l’endroit des richesses du peuple malagasy et de la région de Vatovavy Fito Vinagny. Cette opposition a été déjà adressée aux dirigeants du régime actuel de transition en forme de résolutions écrites. Cependant, elle n’est pas reçu favorablement par les tenants du pouvoir actuel.

The MAINLAND company has been responsible for significant irregularities even after the negligence that had been noted regarding the Environmental Specifications and Requirements for the project, and certainly regarding some measures in the laws and regulatory texts of Madagascar that concern the environment and mining. After MAINLAND's establishment in the area, the Manakara population raised the alarm. There is a call to action among the Antemoro people who hold the traditional power, the organizations and people who truly wish to fight against environmental fraud. They are fighting in the interests of the Malagasy people and the region of Vatovavy Fito Vinagny. This opposition was already expressed to the leaders of the present provisional regime through written resolutions. Nevertheless it hasn't been favorably received by those who are currently in power.

There is urgent need for implementing a better means of accounting for regional interests. In a study on the connection between work and poverty in Madagascar, Epstein et al. argue that access to a stable job (meaning, one that is outside of the black market) is one of the keys to sustainable development:

The study stresses the impacts on employment and incomes of improved access to credit by households, and by infrastructure investments in key sectors that can improve domestic linkages in the Madagascar economy. The study outlines policies that can be undertaken by the government and central banks, including loan guarantees, direct lending, and asset backed reserve requirements that can make financial assets more directly available to small producers and businesses.

Another study, done by Mireille Razafindrakoto et al. also emphasizes that ties need to be strengthened between the state and the grassroots population in order for solutions to be created. They wrap up their research by arguing [fr]:

L'usage de la violence par les factions d'élites assurerait la stabilité de leur pouvoir. Un tel schéma permettrait l'instauration progressive d'un ordre social stable, mais signifierait un abandon du processus démocratique. La seconde voie consiste en revanche à consolider les institutions citoyenne et stimuler la formation de corps intermédiaires pour (r)établir le chaînon manquant entre le sommet de l'Etat et la base [..] Cette seconde voie est selon nous possible, évidemment plus désirable, mais aussi plus difficile à emprunter et surtout nécessite du temps. Elle exige l'instauration d'un nouveau contrat social entre les acteurs en présence sur la scène malgache.

The use of violence by elite factions would cement their power. One such plan would allow the gradual establishment of a stable social order, but it would also bring the abandonment of the democratic process. On the other hand, the other option would be to consolidate the citizen institutions and stimulate the formation of intermediary bodies in order to (re)establish the missing link between the head of the state and the base [..] This second option is, in our view feasible, and clearly more desirable, however it would be more difficult to implement and, above all would require time. It would need the establishment of a new social contract between the current players and the playingfield of Madagascar

September 18 2013

Will Madagascar's Upcoming Elections Solve the Island's Crisis?

After multiple delays, the proposed organization for the presidential elections towards the end of October 2013 is suggesting a solution for the political stalemate in Madagascar. The four-year-long crisis that started with the military-driven takeover in 2009 has plunged the country into a deep political and financial crisis.

But the country has a history of repeated post-electoral crises, so is optimism for an exit to this latest crisis premature?

Even if many observers see a glimpse of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the economic reconstruction efforts are still in tatters. In fact, the endemic poverty from which the Malagasy people suffer is not solely due to the current crisis, even if the economic indicators reveal that it has dramatically gotten worse in the last four years.

This two-parts series will present the causes and potential solutions to the downward spiral that is currently draining the country. In this first part, we will discuss the political crisis and the conditions for getting out of it. The second part will address the economic component and the possible solutions.

Elections and equitable access to information

The 2009 power struggle (Global Voices special coverage of the crisis can be found here) saw the country spiral into spurts of violence and protests, resulting in about 130 deaths since the start of the crisis.  A coup d'état followed in March 21, putting the country on hold while citizens wondered wearily about the fate of country. A military group put Andry Rajoelina in power during the transition period to govern the country until the next elections. The roots of the crisis are numerous but a combination of a growing inequality and the meddling of foreign power resulted in the removal of then-president Marc Ravalomanana who flew with his family to South Africa.

The 2013 elections will be the beginning of a crisis recovery, but not a cure-all. Many people find it hard to believe that elections will change the periodic crisis cycle, but they still hold the hope that the crisis will eventually end, like Sahondra Rabenarivo [fr], a lawyer and expert in international law based in Antananarivo, Madagascar:

Je rentre de la campagne où les élections n’ont aucune, alors aucune, résonance. Quand on n’évite pas de parler des affaires nationales, on s’en remet à Dieu pour résoudre les problèmes, tellement le sentiment d’impuissance face à l’énormité du problème met le citoyen à l’écart de tout pouvoir d’agir [..] Les élections de sortie de crise étaient censées être différentes : la liste électorale allait être revue en long et en large, mais qu’en est-il ? Où était la société civile ? [..] Il n’est pas encore trop tard mais il le sera bientôt. Les médias doivent ne pas laisser les uns et les autres occuper la place médiatique. Car pour y croire, il faut avoir confiance, et pour avoir confiance, il faut une démonstration crédible de progrès (carte d’électeur, bulletin final orienté vers la compréhension des électeurs et pas les préférences des politiques, accès égalitaire aux antennes nationales, abandon de prérogatives ministérielles)

I'm from the countryside where elections have no resonance. When we can't avoid talking about national affairs, we rely on God to solve problems. The sense of helplessness facing the enormity of the problem dismisses the citizen from any power to act [...] The end-of-crisis elections were supposed to be different: the voters list would be reviewed extensively, but what about it? Where was the civil society? [...] It's not too late but it will be soon. The media must not let one or the other occupy the media space. Because to believe in it, we must have trust, and to have trust, we need a credible demonstration of progress (voter card, final bulletin oriented toward understanding voters, not political preferences, equal access to national branches and abandonment of ministerial rights)
Vote d'un citoyen malgache via Andrimaso avec leur permission

A Malagasy citizen's vote. By Andrimaso, used with permission

Tsilavina Ralaindimby, the former Minister of Culture, agrees [fr] and advocates for equal access to media for all candidates:

Si le suffrage universel est sacré c’est parce que l’opinion exprimée par le choix du citoyen est sacrée. Mais comment avoir un véritable choix si on ne dispose pas de l’intégralité des informations ? Comment sera assuré l’accès équitable des candidats aux médias publics en particulier ? Sachant aujourd’ hui que les médias privés dominants sont ancrés à des candidats, les prix du temps d’antenne risquent d’y être prohibitifs.
Ne rêvons toutefois pas de conditions idéales et respectées. Nous avons empilé tellement de couches de complexités dans nos façons de penser et de faire qu’appliquer des idées justes et simples est devenu compliqué. Mais si ces diverses conditions sont remplies dans la majorité des lieux de vote et qu’au travers de leurs représentants dans les différentes régions, les candidats en compétition l’admettent, sont-ils d’accord pour signer un document commun où ils s’engagent à respecter les résultats et à donner une nouvelle chance à la démocratie à Madagascar ?

If universal suffrage is sacred, it's because the opinion expressed by the citizen's choice is sacred. But how can we make a real choice if we don't have all the information? How can we be assured that candidates have equal access to public media? Knowing today that the dominant private media are tied to candidates, the cost of air time is likely to be prohibitive there.
However, we're not dreaming about ideal and respected conditions. We have many layers of complexity in our ways of thinking and doing so that applying fair and simple ideas has become complicated. But if various conditions are met in most polling stations and through their representatives in the various regions, the competing candidates admit it—are they willing to sign a joint accord where they agree to respect the results and give Madagascar a new chance for democracy?

Hidden causes of the 2009 crisis

The frequency of political crises in Madagascar has increased at an alarming rate: 1975, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2009. In the 2009 crisis, many experts studied the reasons that led to the country's irreversible spiral in the current impasse. A recent study published in the magazine, Les Afriques, explains “the deep secrets from the [last] Malagasy crisis.” The study argues that the big island's competing geo-political interests stirred up the coup d'état [fr] that overthrew Marc Ravaomanana. The authors detail the reasons why they assert that France supported the removal of Ravalomanana, the main reason being that Ravalomanana threatened French financial interests in the country, especially the exploitation of the already-established French oil concessions in the southern part of Madagascar.

Le coup d’Etat d’Andry Rajoelina, le 18 mars 2009 à été qualifié comme étant un «french Coup», un coup-d’état orchestré par la France, selon les propos d’un diplomate européen à l’issue de la réunion du groupe international de contact sur Madagascar du 6 au 7 octobre 2009 à Antananarivo [..] La crise politique malgache depuis 2009 a donc été le résultat d’une mésentente entre la France et les U.S.A et les intérêts pétroliers sont au centre de cette querelle. Le plan énergétique américain et français, qui consiste à s’immiscer dans les affaires politiques, économiques et militaires des Etats pourvoyeurs de pétrole pour faire main basse sur cette dernière, n’est pas d’invention récente…

Andry Rajoelina's coup d'état on March 18, 2009 was characterized as a “French coup”, a coup d'état orchestrated by France, in the words of a European diplomat at the end of the International Contact Group on Madagascar's meeting on October 6 and 7, 2009 meeting in Antananarivo. [...] Since 2009, the Malagasy political crisis has been the result of a disagreement between France and the United States; oil interests were at the core of this dispute. The U.S. and French energy plan (i.e., getting involved in the political, economic and military affairs of the states supplying oil, in order to get its hands on it) has been a well-known fact for a while [...]

This argument was confirmed recently by former Malagasy president Didier Ratsiraka who stated during an interview [fr] on public television:

La France [m'] a demandé d'aider Andry Rajoelina à évincer Marc Ravalomanana [..]J'ai répondu, je ne suis pas en faveur des coups d’État” (….) On s'est mis d'accord que Marc Ravalomanana quitterait le pouvoir sans bain de sang.

France asked me to help Andry Rajoelina to push Marc Ravalomanana out [..] I said that I was not in favor of coup d'état [..] We agreed that evincing Marc Ravalomanana will have to happen without any violence.

Les Afriques magazine's statements on France's role are mainly based on Thomas Deltombe's March 2012 article in Le Monde Diplomatique to support his arguments. In this article, Deltombe explains that the French industrial holding group Bolloré, known for its aggressive acquisition policy in developing countries, and French oil Company Total were upset with  Ravalomanana's decisions to reallocate some preferential markets. Deltombe states [fr] that:

Les sujets de crispation franco-malgaches se multiplièrent tout au long de la présidence Ravalomanana. Le groupe Bolloré fut, dit-on, fort marri de se voir souffler la concession du port de Toamasina, privatisé en 2005, par un concurrent philippin. Quant à Total, il fallut une très forte pression de l’Elysée pour que le gouvernement malgache signe, en septembre 2008, une licence permettant à la multinationale française d’explorer les sables bitumineux de Bemolanga, à l’ouest de Madagascar [..] Si l’hypothèse d’un soutien français au coup d’Etat a la vie dure, c’est aussi que la France n’a jamais masqué sa proximité avec le président de la HAT Andry Rajoelina.

The Franco-Malagasy controversial topics have multiplied throughout Ravalomanana's presidency. The Bolloré group was, they say, very grieved to see the loss of the concession of the port of Toamasina, which was privatized in 2005 by a Filipino competitor. As for Total, the Elysée [The French presidency offices] placed a lot of pressure on the Malagasy government to sign, in September 2008, a license allowing the French multinational to explore Bemolanga's oil sands, located west of Madagascar. [...] If the assumption of French support to the coup remains, it's also that France has never covered its proximity to the HAT [High Authority of the Transition] President, Andry Rajoelina.

Why does Madagascar attract so many conflicting financial interests that irreparably plunges it in repetitive crises? Les Afriques magazine notes that Madagascar is a country that has plenty of resources [fr] to get its population out of endemic poverty:

Madagascar est riche en ressources forestières et halieutiques. Ses 5000 km de littoral, composés des mangroves et récifs coralliens qui produisent chaque année un excédent biologique (des poissons, des crabes, des crevettes, des concombres de mer et des huîtres) supérieur à 300 000 tonnes. Les mangroves du Canal du Mozambique servent à la reproduction de crevette de qualité appelées «L’or rose de Madagascar ». son sous-sol regorge du pétrole lourd et léger, de quartz, de diamant, d’or, d’ilménite etc. [..] Madagascar dispose donc de tout pour décoller. Pourtant cette île est l’un des 12 pays les plus pauvres du monde, 80% de la population vit en deçà du seuil de pauvreté [..]  L’insécurité des biens et des personnes et maximale aussi bien dans les grandes villes que dans les zones reculés.

Madagascar is rich in forest and fishery resources. Its 5,000 km coastline, consisting of mangroves and coral reefs that produce an annual biological surplus (fish, crabs, shrimp, sea cucumbers and oysters) of over 300,000 tonnes. The mangroves in the Mozambique Canal that are used for breeding quality shrimp are called “the gold roses of Madagascar.” Its subsoil is full of light and heavy oil, quartz, diamond, gold, ilmenite, etc. [...] Therefore, everything can be removed from Madagascar. But this island is one of the 12 poorest countries in the world—80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. [...] The insecurity of goods and people is higher in big cities than in remote areas.

The crisis recovery process will have to go through many obstacles and competing interests in order to form the foundation for a strong recovery. But time is also against the big island. The next leaders will have to find solutions in a very short period in respect of the country's fragile economic situation.

The second part of this analysis by observers of the Malagasy crisis will focus on the economic and social aspects.

September 02 2013

Madagascar : « la diplomatie française est toujours dans le brouillard »

#Madagascar : « la diplomatie française est toujours dans le brouillard »
http://survie.org/billets-d-afrique/2013/226-juillet-aout-2013/article/madagascar-la-diplomatie-francaise-4515

Alors que la situation politique est dans l’impasse depuis que l’élection présidentielle, prévue d’abord le 8 mai, puis le 24 juillet et désormais reportée sine die, Billets d’Afrique a recueilli le point de vue de Patrick Rakotomalala, représentant de Saraha Georget Rabeharisoa, candidate du parti Hasin’i Madagasikara, le parti vert malgache. Billets : Quatre ans après le putsch, la situation est toujours figée avec toujours cette crise politique. Quelles sont les solutions pour sortir de cette (...)

#226_-_juillet-août_2013 #Salves

August 07 2013

Madagascar Agency Suspended from Network Tracking Money Laundering

malagasy Ariary and Euros via  Teraka Andriatsoa blog - Public Domain

Malagasy Ariary currency and Euros via Teraka Randriantsoa blog – Public Domain

Lambo T. reports [fr] on the website of La Gazette de La Grande Ile that Samifin [mg], the agency in charge of cleaning up the financial sector and combat transnational illegal operations in Madagascar has been suspended from the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units. Egmont is an international network that helps tracks money laundering or terrorism financing. Lambo T. explains that the current administration's failure to move forward on a Bill against terrorism and transnational organized crime that led to Samifin's suspension.

July 25 2013

Sifting Fact From Fiction on the French Speaking Web

A recent row between a veiled woman‘s husband and the police in Trappes, a low-income suburb of Paris, was followed by numerous erroneous posts and images [fr] posted on social media websites. The blog Les Décodeurs, which strives to sift out truth from lies on the Francophone web, was quick to counter the false information.

Fabrice Florin, the French-speaking founder of NewsTrust and TruthSquad, explains the need for fact-checking initiatives:

There is a growing amount of misinformation, particularly in this political climate [..] With an expanding universe of news options, once someone finds a source of information they like or agree with, they tend to cling to it. The reason [for fact check] is to get people thinking about what they read and hear, and from there, questioning it.

Here is a review of recent events that were reviewed extensively by fact checkers in French-speaking online media.

Row in Trappes

On July 19, 2013 in Trappes, the husband of a Caribbean woman who was wearing a niqab (face veil), allegedly tried to strangle [fr] a police officer. Following the husband's arrest, 200 people protested in front of a police station destroying property, and were eventually repelled by riot police. Images posted on social media were erroneously tagged as originating from the violence during the protests. Les Décodeurs unpacked numerous errors [fr]:

Quelques personnes, en général connues pour leur activité militante, diffusent sciemment de fausses informations. C'est le cas de cette photo, diffusée par Stéphane Journot, ancien militant UMP, actif durant la campagne de 2012

Some people, known for their political activism, knowingly share false information. As is the case with this photo, shared by Stéphane Journot, a former UMP (right wing party) activist from the 2012 campaign.

Below is the erroneous tweet and photo [fr]:

you might call this racism but..look for yourself #Trappes

The photo was in fact an old image taken in 2010 in Lyon. Les Décodeurs adds that there were many similar tweets spreading, knowingly or not, the wrong information.

Fact checking on the African continent 

African nations are well aware of the importance of fact-checking initiatives. Ushahidi, the world's first crowd-mapping platform  originated from the African continent. A project called Africa Check specifically monitors information from African leaders. Their mission statement says:

We test claims made by public figures around the continent, starting in South Africa, using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting out fact from fiction.

In Francophone Africa, the focus has been mostly on election monitoring. Election monitoring initiatives, in SenegalBurundi, are well-established.  Elections are coming up in a few Francophone nations,including Mali, Togo and Madagascar. Pen Plus Bytes has dedicated a specific platform for election monitoring in Africa called the African Elections Project (AEP). The project wrote the following report on the ongoing Togolese parliamentary elections:

About 3.3 million registered Togolese voters will cast ballots today in 7,600 polling stations to select 91 Parliamentarians out of about 1,174 contesting candidates from the ruling and opposition parties. This election has been delayed for eight months amid concerns by opposition parties that the poll won’t be transparent and fair.

Sylvio Combey in Togo has already posted images of alleged fraud from his Twitter account:

 

8:00, A ballot box is shown to be empty in #Kanyikopé (Togo) #TGinfo #TG2013 #Nukpola #Fb

In Mali, Rising Voices (a Global Voices project) grantee Fasokan has been involved with the monitoring the upcoming Presidential elections. He wrote about the training of electoral observers [fr] :

Pendant cinq jours, plusieurs thèmes ont été abordés : la loi électorale, la charte des partis politiques, les genres journalistiques (compte rendu, portrait, interview…), les règles de déontologie et éthique du journaliste, les contraintes liées à l’exercice de la profession

For five days, several topics were discussed: the electoral law, the charter for political parties, the different journalistic activities (report, biography, interviews …), the rules of conduct and ethics of a journalist, the constraints while conducting journalistic activities

Training  for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Training for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Madagascar also awaits elections and concerns are already arising with false information posted on the web. During recent protests asking for a firm electoral calendar, a photo claiming that protesters were out in force was fact checked by Global Voices contributor Jentilisa.

Jentilisa wrote [mg]:

Fa maninona ho'aho ity sarin'ny tolon'ny 2009 na fony mbola tsy vita ny lapan'ny tanàna hita amin'ny “grue” manakaiky ny hazo avo ireo no miverimberina hanetanana ny tolonareo e? Sahala amin'ny hoe io no tao androany nefa tamin'ny 2009 ity sary ity?

Why is a photo from 2009 resurfacing again (and tagged as photo from recent events)? One can see with the crane in the background that it is clearly not a recent photo. This crane was there in 2009, wasn't it ?

The photo Jentilisa disputes is below:

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa - Public Domain

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa – Public Domain

With the worldwide growth of the web, it is critical that fact checking project becomes more mainstream and better known as well.

July 23 2013

Protests for Election in Madagascar Lead to Violence, Arrest

Protests in Antananarivo, Madagascar on July 22, 2013 photo via MaTV

Protests in Antananarivo, Madagascar on July 22, 2013. Images via MaTV

Vola R of Ma-Laza reports that 7 were hurt [fr] following police repression of protests demanding elections in Antananarivo, Madagascar. The party leading the protest states that the current administration has no intention of organizing elections this year and is just hanging on to their position of power. The leader of the party was allegedly arrested following the protests.

July 19 2013

Privileges Granted to Ex-Presidents in Madagascar

Reporter Rianasoa posts the image of a document that stipulates what ex presidents will be entitled to in Madagascar. These privileges include but (not limited to) the services of 5 house helpers and 2 drivers and a stipend of 6 000 000 Ariary (about $2700 USD/month):

 

Law #2013-001 stating the privileges granted to former presidents in Madagascar

July 09 2013

Why Can't Madagascar Settle on an Election Date?

Four years since a military takeover plunged the country into political crisis in 2009, Madagascar cannot seem to find a way out.

One of the critical steps in the consensus road map [fr], an agreement signed by the head of the transitional government and three of the country's four opposition parties that outlines an exit to the crisis, is to organize free and transparent elections. Yet the date of the presidential elections have been delayed and pushed back more often than flights between Newark and Cincinnati airports.

The country has been bogged in crisis for so long that a recurring question among observers is whether the current transitional regime will outlast how long Madagascar's previously elected administrations held office. To boot, the political constitution is in such disarray that the prime minister has stated that in his opinion, there is currently no acting head of state in Madagascar.

What is the hold up anyway ? 

At the deadline for submitting their candidacies to the election, there were 49 declared presidential candidates. With the election date pushed back from May to July to a date to be determined later in 2013, a few candidates have already dropped out of the race while three others have been asked by the international mediation group (GIC-M) to withdraw their names in order to comply with the spirit of the road map.

The three politicians whose candidacies are deemed unacceptable by GIC-M are the current president of the transition, Andry Rajoelina; Madagascar's former two-time President Didier Rastiraka, who served from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002; and Lalao Ravalomanana, the wife of booted President Marc Ravalomanana.

African Union representative Ouedraogo explains the mediation group's viewpoint with respect to the Malagasy elections [fr]:

C’est vrai que ces candidatures ne respectent pas toute la légalité, mais la situation des Malgaches est telle que, après quatre ans de crise, il vaut mieux chercher la solution. Et la solution, nous, nous disons qu’avec une pléthore de candidatures – une pléthore parce qu’il y a 41 candidatures – il suffit de responsabiliser les Malgaches, de leur faire confiance, et ils feront le bon choix pour eux-mêmes

While it is true that these three candidacies do not comply to the agreed legal framework, the situation of Madagascar is such that after four years of crisis, we need to find a solution. And the solution might be, considering the plethora of candidacies (41) to trust the Malagasy citizens, let them take charge of their destiny and they will make the right choice for themselves.

But none of the three candidates seem ready to drop out of the race. Rajoelina is seen campaigning in the west of Madagascar in the picture below under the cover of some official event to attend (the presidential campaign is not officially underway since the election date is not yet set):

Rajoelina campaigning in the Mahajanga, Madagascar,  July 2013. Image posted on Facebook by Patrick Raharimanana with permission.

Rajoelina campaigning in Mahajanga, Madagascar, July 2013. Image posted on Facebook by Patrick Raharimanana with permission.

Lalao Ravalomanana has declared in the Wall Street Journal that:

I am running for President, nothing has happened recently to make me change my mind. I am prepared to suffer personal sanctions for my beliefs [..] The outcome all Malagasy citizens want is for an election date to be agreed; nothing more, nothing less. After that it is for the people to decide who they want as their next President.  All forty-one candidates should be allowed to present their manifestoes.

The rest of the candidates urge the Malagasy civil society to take action and do everything in their power to get an election date set once and for all. For that, a petition was launched [fr] and signed by 21 of the 41 candidates left.

The United States has also stated that they are in favor of election that would include all 41 candidates this year [fr].

Who is benefiting from the delays? And who is suffering?

As stated earlier, many observers wonder how long will the transitional regime last and how the country can bring closure to the crisis. The underlying issue is that the current administration is not ready to let go of their power, as illustrated by Rajoelina's campaigning effort.  The longer the status quo is maintained, the longer they can hold onto their positions.

Zafy Albert, an ex-president, stated that one of the main road blocks is the army [fr], the entity that helped put the current administration in power in the first place :

Zafy confirme que le blocage c'est l'Armée mais que des négociations sont en cours

Zafy confirms that the main blocking agent is the Army but negociations are ongoing.

The reasons for holding on a while longer are made quite apparent by a recent infographic published by the OMNIS agency, a state-owned agency that been commissioned to manage, develop, and promote the national petroleum and mineral resources in Madagascar:

natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

Natural resources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by OMNIS Agency on Facebook, with permission

The map lists all the mining sites in Madagascar and the international corporations that have signed contracts to exploit the available mineral resources on the territory. The lack of transparency on the content of these contracts prevent Malagasy citizens from knowing the exact terms of the deal and who benefited from them. Another reason for hanging on to power a while longer is the ongoing lucrative rosewood trafficking.

While the prolonged transition benefits a few privileged ones, it has taken an important toll on the general public. A recent study shows that the political crisis has overshadowed a more pernicious social and economic crisis: while Madagascar was already one of the most impoverished nations, now nine out of ten Malagasy live with less than two US dollars a day. The data shows than there are four million more poor citizens in the country since 2009 [fr].

The following video by Eric Rabemanoro details the impact of the crisis on unemployment, purchasing power and crimes [fr] :

An exit to the crisis at this point is not merely a question of politics anymore, it has become a question of survival for the majority of the population. A glaring question mark on where exactly does the priority of the political elite and the international community stand.

June 10 2013

Delays, Political Turmoil Plague Madagascar As Elections Near

Political stalemate, financing issues, and logistical hurdles threaten to derail Madagascar's overdue upcoming presidential elections, the country's first since a coup in 2009 plunged the island into political crisis.

Voting was originally scheduled for 24 July, 2013, but faced with sorting out the legitimacy of some contested candidates, the government has postponed elections again, moving the date a month later to 23 August, 2013.

Madagascar has not had an elected president since the spring of 2009, when elected President Marc Ravalomanana was forced to resign his power by the country's military following violent clashes between authorities and anti-government protesters. The military promptly handed over the government reigns to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who immediately dissolved the two houses of parliament.

During Rajoelina's tenure as head of the transitional government, presidential elections have been pushed back three times since the first scheduled date, 26 November, 2010, and parliamentary elections have been postponed four times since 20 March, 2010. Because of this political cluster, the European Union, the United States, and other countries suspended aid to the island and the African Union suspended Madagascar's membership until a return to the state of law.

Cartoon about the ever-eluding elections in Midi Madagasikara paper edition posted by @Aline_Tana on twitter

Cartoon about the ever-eluding elections in Midi Madagasikara paper edition posted by @Aline_Tana on Twitter (posted with her permission)

More than two years after the ouster, Rajoelina and three of the country's four main opposition parties signed a political road map [fr] on 16 September, 2011 that says former presidents and the current president of the transition are prohibited from running for another presidential term. The road map also states [fr] that any candidates running need to resign from any governing office if they want to validate their candidacy.

That hasn't stopped three candidates of the 50 candidates running from throwing their hat into the ring, despite violating parts of the road map and international pressure to withdraw: the current President of the transition, Rajoelina; Madagascar's former two-time President Didier Rastiraka, who served from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002; and Lalao Ravalomanana, the wife of booted President Ravalomanana. Rajoelina initially stated that he would not seek a presidential term, but has since changed his mind.

Given the political deadlock caused by the three aforementioned candidacies, all three and their spouses are now barred from entering the European Union with a Schengen Visa [fr].

As for the rest of candidates who have been preparing for elections since 2011, here is a photo montage of some of them:

Presidential candidates in Madagascar posted by Candidats Fifidianana on facebook

Presidential candidates in Madagascar posted by Candidats Fifidianana on Facebook

The country's leadership crisis has had far-reaching consequences well beyond the political arena. A report by the World Bank states that the impact of the political crisis is multi-pronged:

  • The economy has stalled, income per capita has fallen
  • Poverty has sharply increased
  • Social outcomes have worsened
  • Public finances are increasingly under stress
  • Foreign aid remains muted
  • Infrastructure has deteriorated
  • The ability to deal with exogenous shocks is severely curtailed
  • The resilience of agriculture had helped avoid a food crisis so far
  • Madagascar’s longstanding governance problems have only been exacerbated
  • The resilience of the private sector is increasingly being tested
Madagascar GDP over the last decade posted on twitter with permission

Madagascar GDP over the last decade posted on Twitter with the user's permission

More than 92 percent of the population live under two US dollars a day. Because of the sharp decline in job opportunities since the crisis, poverty has driven women into prostitution with 29,000 registered sex workers in the town of Toamasina in 2012, up from 17,000 in 1993.  A documentary by Journeyman Pictures details the lives of those who are forced to trade sex for survival:

Complicating the already tense situation, the country was recently hit by cyclone Haruna which ravaged most of its southern region. A locust infestation followed, wrecking havoc on its already fragilized agriculture.

Inondations à Tuléar - Domaine public via The Nation

Flooding in Tulear, Madagscar – Public Domain via The Nation

Locust invasion in down town Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

Locust invasion in down town Fianaratsoa, Madagascar via @lrakoto on Twitter (with the author's permission)

Transparent, credible, and timely elections are seen by many as the first critical step towards exiting the crisis, but it appears that the vote may still very well be in jeopardy. How much longer can the Malagasy people endure such hardships?

May 31 2013

Is There Still a President in Madagascar ?

Patrick Rajoelina argues that [fr] by law, if the president of the transition Andry Rajoelina still wants to run for the upcoming presidential elections in Madagascar, he can no longer be president, according to the road map signed by all Malagasy political parties in 2011. The current prime minister Beriziky stated on 30/05 [fr] that Andry Rajoelina is no longer eligible to seat at the government meetings because he should have already resigned from his position.

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