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4 January 2019
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Newsletter n° 109 [ENG]

Interview on TV5 Monde, 26 December 2018 : 


Nidhya Palliakara - Presidential elections in Madagascar : Tomorrow, on Thursday, the official results will be announced. Andry Rajoelina is in the lead according to initial results. His rival Marc Ravalomanana is already challenging the outcome. The two former heads of state are clashing in the polls when ten years ago, they were already clashing about agricultural land grab in Madagascar. Agriculture is a major issue in the Big Island where 78% of the people lives in rural areas. Here with us, to talk about it, is the president of the Collective for the Defense of Malagasy Lands - TANY, Mamy Rakotondrainibe, good evening !

Mamy Rakotondrainibe- Good evening !

N.P - Your organisation, TANY, was created in 2008 to fight against this scourge of agricultural land grabbing following the Daewoo Logistics affair, a contract that was signed by Marc Ravalomanana at that time. This was the beginning of the crisis in Madagascar. What was this Daewoo Logistics project content ?

M.R - The only elements that we know about the Daewoo Logistics project, which was very opaque, comes from an exchange between a senior Daewoo Logistics executive and a Financial Times reporter : it was a 99-year lease of 1.3 million hectares of land in four regions of Madagascar to grow maize and oil palm export to South Korea. The Malagasy people were not informed, consulted nor asked their opinion.

N.P - They were expropriated ?

M.R - The project did not push through because it was stopped in time. In fact, it is only "suspended", not canceled.

N.P - This was criticized at the time by the young mayor of Tana, a certain Andry Rajoelina.

M.R - Yes, he was already demonstrating in the streets of Antananarivo against other elements of President Ravalomanana’s manner of governing.

N.P - This led to the fall of Ravalomanana ?

M.R - Exactly. Therefore, for us this Daewoo case is the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to the downfall of the government, although there were already other problems before.

N.P - And the project is suspended until today ?

M.R - To our knowledge, it is suspended until now. On the other hand, we remain very vigilant because the South Korea government is very active and shows a lot of interests in Madagascar. In 2013, a British journalist who was in Seoul sent us an article, that he later published, saying that within the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade there is a ’Madagascar’ division.

N.P - Does this mean that the project could be revived again ?

M.R - Exactly. Besides, it could become a national issue for South Korea and not just that of a private company.

N.P - This land grabbing affair had haunted the two presidential candidates, particularly during the televised debate between the first and second rounds of the elections. Verbal attacks were made :

Andry Rajoelina - "People are crying. Many people cry and say, ’Help us President Rajoelina ! How can we fight against the President of the Republic ? It was in 2004 that these lands were registered in the name of your company, Tiko. Land grabbing of peasants’ lands by a President of the Republic must stop. That’s enough. One must choose : either one is President of the Republic, or one is a businessman.

Marc Ravalomanana – Enough of this. I maintain that what I have said is true. These lands are registered with the domains service."

N.P - What is the opinion of these two candidates today ? Andry Rajoelina, for example.

M.R - We have not studied their political programs until we see who is elected, especially since, Malagasies living in France do not have the right to vote. But in the last debate we saw that Mr. Andry Rajoelina does not wish to change the Constitution, which is one of our demands. Article 1 of the Constitution, which was voted during the transitional period when he was president, says the laws now will regulate the sale and leasing of land [to foreigners] (1). Selling land was until now prohibited by law in Madagascar.

N.P - It’s a law inherited from the colonial period ?

M.R - Yes, the sale of land [to foreigners] (1) was not allowed by law. On the other hand, Mr. Ravalomanana, in an interview with AGENCE ECOFIN (2), said that, for him, there should be no large-scale land leases to foreign investors unless they benefit the Malagasy state or companies. In fact, this point, this corresponds exactly with the law 2007-036 article 18 which authorizes the sale of land to foreign companies. Therefore, we find ourselves almost in the same situation in the end.

N.P - What does this issue of land grabbing mean for local people, concretely ?

M.R - When the state or local authorities decide to allocate land to investors, local communities are victims. They are expelled when they have no land titles. But they can also be expropriated even when they have land titles or land certificates because in Madagascar there are laws saying that when a project is of public interest, people should be expropriated.

N.P - Does this mean that food sovereignty is threatened ?

M.R - Absolutely.

N.P - What about the investing country ? South Korea, in this case.

M.R - We are aware that some countries like South Korea do not have enough land. However, the problem is that the means of allocating land by the Malagasy governments and by the Malagasy leaders is done to the detriment of the local people and their food sovereignty. Therefore, the search for social justice on this issue is really a problem.

N.P - It’s environmental problem, too ?

M.R - Yes because, when implementing investors’ projects, people in charge do not take environmental protection into account at all and this causes a lot of problems, especially regarding water and other natural resources.

N.P - So, tomorrow the official provisional results will be announced. What do you want to say to the winner ?

M.R - What do I want to tell the winner ? Please, stop look down upon the Malagasy people and their lands and inviting foreign investors to come and occupy your territories. The Malagasy people need those lands for their food and their development since it is their main factor of production. Land is the main means of livelihood of Malagasy people who are in majority farmers.

N.P – Mamy Rakotondrainibe, thank you. I remind everyone that you are President of the Collective for the Defense of the Malagasy Lands - TANY.

M.R - Thank you.

References :


(**) Free translation of excerpts from the televised debate of December 16, 2018 :

(1) The last sentence of Article 1 of the 2010 Constitution currently in force is ’Terms and conditions relating to the landsale and long-term lease for foreigners are determined by law’