Category: Country Profile

Madagascar Country Profile 2010-2011

Madagascar Country Profile 2010-2011

The year 2009 was a dramatic year for Madagascar. After the March 17 coup in which the young mayor of the capital, Andry Rajoelina (35), took power and forced President Marc Ravalomanana (60) into exile in South Africa, the country has undergone a continuous crisis. The crisis continued in 2010 and has major consequences for countries, people and, not least, for nature and the environment.

President Marc Ravalomanana was Madagascar’s richest man because he governed a large business empire built on dairy farming and food production across a wide range. He was accused of mingling his own business with the state’s economy. For public positions, he favored people from his group and from his own ethnic group, the marina. The coastal population has always regarded this inland group as privileged when it comes to the development of schools, health services and infrastructure.

All indications were that the president was safe after he was re-elected in December 2006 for another five years with 55 percent of the vote. So he was only halfway into his second presidential term when the coup happened. The president’s party had a majority in the National Assembly and Senate and in almost all the 1500 municipalities. An important exception was the capital, where the young mayor Andry Rajoelina swept Ravalomanana’s candidate and secured 63 percent of the vote. The mayor advocated dissatisfaction that had built up in the population. He was a well-known disc jockey and ran some advertising business in Antananarivo, but no one had thought of the possibility of him becoming the country’s de facto president.

Three events triggered the coup. First, Ravalomanana shut down the radio transmitter to Rajoelina because it had sent a speech that ex-President Didier Ratsiraka had kept from his exile in Paris. Second, it was known that the government had begun negotiations with the South Korean company Daewoo for the lease of a land area the size of half Belgium for 99 years for the production of maize to South Korea. Third, in January 2009, the president went on to purchase a luxury aircraft called “Air Force One” for $ 60 million.

It was impossible to come forward with criticism of the regime, also because of the president’s arrogant style of government, and people in Antananarivo began to demonstrate in the streets. Thousands joined in on Andry Rajoelina’s orange demonstration. On “Black Monday” January 26, the popular movement got out of control and set fire to both the president’s business and department stores and the national broadcast, then to other businesses as well.

February 7 turned “red Saturday”. Then Rajoelina and the political group he had created sent “the High Authority of the Transitional Government” (HAT), the crowd towards the presidential palace in the middle of the city. Here, the protesters were shot, and 31 people were killed and many injured. The movement had now received its martyrs.

The turning point came on March 8, when some colonels in the army made mutiny and took control of the weapons stock without caring about their generals. The defense minister was forced to step down. The following week, the militia marched toward the presidential palace outside the city where Ravalomanana resided. On the morning of March 17, the president gave power to the top generals. When the statement was read to Rajoelina in the presence of the church leaders, the UN representative and the US ambassador, he refused to accept the decision and “kidnapped” the generals. The generals were forced to give power to Andry Rajoelina.

Threatened by life, Ravalomanana had to flee to South Africa, where he still resides. The Constitutional Court approved the takeover of power and Rajoelina was appointed president. He immediately dissolved the Senate and National Assembly and has since ruled dictatorially by decrees.

The international community with the United Nations and the African Union (AU) at the forefront set up an international contact group to negotiate between the parties. In August, the three previously elected presidents Zafy, Ratsiraka, Ravalomanana and de facto President Rajoelina met for negotiations in the Mozambican capital Maputo. There, they signed an agreement on a “consensual and inclusive” solution to the conflict. This was subsequently extended with a supplementary agreement in Addis Ababa. According to this, all four political groups should get their hands on the wheel, with Rajoelina being the head of state and interim president, Zafy and Ravalomanana being represented with each co-president, and Ratsiraka getting the prime minister.

But when Rajoelina returned to Madagascar, he continued his one-sided rule. A new meeting in Maputo in early December was boycotted by Rajoelina. He then appointed a new prime minister and launched the idea of ​​a new national assembly in the spring of 2010. At the time of writing, it was uncertain when this could be done.

The consequences of the crisis have been great. The tourism sector, which had 320,000 tourists in 2008, has collapsed. All major donors, the World Bank, EU, US and Norway, have frozen state-by-state aid. Only humanitarian and health care assistance has been maintained. Gross domestic product growth was 7 percent in 2008, but fell to 0.8 percent in 2009. It is estimated that the crisis has led to the loss of some 300,000 jobs, especially in the tourism and textile industries. Education reform, which was well on its way to modernizing and expanding primary school from five to seven years, has stopped.

Only France has maintained state-by-state assistance, and many believe that France has indirectly supported the coup maker to safeguard French economic and cultural interests. There are 25,000 French people living on the island, many of whom are engaged in business. While Ravalomanana worked to liberalize the economy and entered into agreements with Canada, Germany, China and others, Rajoelina has forged stronger ties with France. But France, too, officially supports a unifying solution to the conflict.

One of the most tragic is that the cessation of state aid has led to environmental crime in the national parks. Because tourism revenue from ecotourism collapsed, foresters lost their revenue. Harvesting of timber from the rain forest has led to rare species of animals, such as lemurs and chameleons, being threatened with extinction. Natural parks that are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List due to biodiversity are at risk of being destroyed due to valuable timber exports to China, without the government trying to stop it.

The human rights situation has also deteriorated. In a report published in January 2010, Amnesty International points out that there have been a number of violations of basic human rights under the coup regime: accidental political arrests, inhuman treatment, persistent attacks on journalists and the media, and even illegal killings. The Madagascar de facto authorities (HAT) have not brought such abuses to judicial review, giving the impression that they have been approved at the highest level.

Country facts:

Area: 587 041 km2 (20th largest)

Population: 19 million

Population density: 33 per km2

Urban population: 29 percent

Largest city: Antananarivo – approx. 1.7 million

GDP per capita: $ 488

Economic growth: 5 percent

HDI Position: 145

Cape Verde

Cape Verde

Around 500,000 people live on the nine islands that make up Cape Verde. About as many live outside the country’s borders, but count as race-worthy. Politically, the country is very stable. Cape Verde has long had a good development, both financially and healthily, but still depends on foreign aid.

From the liberation in 1975 to 1990, Partido Africano then ruled the Independência de Cabo Verde (PAICV) as the only party. The 1991 election was Africa’s first peaceful transition to multi-party rule (along with São Tomé and Principe) and was won by the liberalist Movimento para a Democracia (MpD). MPD won again in 1995, but lost in 2001 to PAICV, which also won the election in January 2006.

PAICV’s victory at that time was partly due to voters’ dissatisfaction with abuse of power and internal clutter in MpD. The election in 2006 further strengthened the party’s position and PAICV today stands as a modern party, with an almost social democratic profile.

Parliament has 72 seats, and the emigrant population elects 6 of the representatives. Cape Verde has seven parties, but only three of them are represented in parliament after the last election in 2006. PAICV got 41 of the seats in the election and MpD 29, and the last two seats went to the party União Cabo-verdiana Independente e Democrática (UCID ).

In the local elections in 2008, MPD won big. They won in 11 municipalities, including the two largest cities, while PAICV won in 10. The only other party to win a local election was Grupo Independente para Modernizar Sal (GIMS), an independent group working to modernize Sal, one of the Cape Verde’s total of nine inhabited islands. However, GIMS received support from MpD and is considered here as an Mpd municipality.

Although the country’s political stability persists, regionalization trends can be challenging. At the same time, the country is in practice governed by only two parties. The 2011 election, which also requires a new president, can indicate the direction in which the country’s political system will go.

The biggest political debates in recent years have been the public sale of real estate and the effect of the privatization of larger state-owned enterprises. The electricity supply is still unstable. The power price and the “Norwegian” gasoline prices create a number of problems at the individual level as well as for the business sector more generally.

The human rights situation on Cape Verde is better than in most African countries. However, torture of prisoners has been reported, and the police are accused of taking child and women abuse too easily. Drug-related crime and violence are a growing problem, but Cape Verde is still considered a safe country to travel to.

Dependency of aid

Cape Verde exports fish, lobster, some fruit and products from light industry (shoes and clothes). There are small development opportunities in industry and agriculture, and the dependence on the tourism industry is increasing. The country has no significant natural resources, and chronic rainfall is causing major problems for agriculture. Only about 15 percent of the country’s 4,033 square kilometers are arable land. There is still some hardship, because the owners live abroad and hinder development. The PAICV government has long wanted a land reform. Unemployment is around 20-25 percent. Gross domestic product (GDP) is US $ 5214 per person.

Cape Verde today is highly dependent on outside assistance, an addiction that seems to persist for a long time to come. Around 90 percent of the aid is grants. This has become possible partly because Cape Verde has been politically stable since the liberation and the level of corruption is low. However, increasing corruption is registered. The currency (Cape Verde Escudos, CVE) is set at a fixed exchange rate against the euro. Inflation appears to be under control. Cape Verde has achieved a special partner status in the EU, according to the Cotonou Agreement.

The relatively good standard of living in Cape Verde paradoxically creates problems in securing continued assistance from donor countries; Cape Verde is now regarded as a middle-income country and is therefore not included among the countries that are usually recipients of aid.

However, the country’s stable political and social situation led the United States in 2005 to support Cape Verde through the so-called Millennium Challenge Corporation with $ 110 million for water supply, infrastructure and private sector development.

The country is very sensitive to external conditions that can affect the level of contributions from donor countries and emigrants. Emigrants’ contributions account for around 16 percent of GDP. The government is investing in getting this group to invest more money in the country. In addition to tourism, the authorities are trying to find opportunities to exploit the country’s geographical strategic position between Brazil and Africa. Opportunities to offer oil-producing neighboring countries onshore and / or refining facilities have been discussed.

Foreign debt totaled nearly $ 600 million in 2007, according to the UN. An increasing budget deficit in recent years is due to drought-related problems and health and education measures.

Health and social conditions

The authorities prioritize health and poverty reduction. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) supports, among other things, poverty reduction measures and considers the cutting-edge economy as persistently sound. Seven percent of the state budget goes to health measures. The primary health service is relatively well developed, but there is a shortage of trained health professionals. Access to clean water and sanitation is still lacking.

19 percent of the state budget goes to education. There is a free school offer for everyone and the literacy rate is approaching 80 percent. Cape Verde has its own university, and is partnering with a private university in Portugal. The country can thus offer a number of education at the university and college level. The problem of the authorities is continuity in education. Today, parts of primary school education are funded through external assistance and are therefore extremely vulnerable.

Many want to emigrate to seek education and work. However, the tightening of immigration policy in the West has made this more difficult, which has led to increased population growth according to Countryaah.

Cape Verde has sharply reduced UNDP’s development index, from 102nd place in 2007, to 121st place in 2009. The change is due to other countries having greater improvements than Cape Verde last year. The country’s own development indicators are unchanged, so the change is less dramatic than it may seem at first glance.

Country facts:

Area: 4,033 km2 (50th largest)

Population: 499 000

Population density per km2: 124

Urban population: 59 percent

Largest city: Praia – 126,000

GDP per capita: USD 3439

Economic growth: 5.9 percent

HDI Position: 121

Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Negotiations between Morocco and Western Sahara, and a possible new US position vis-à-vis Western Sahara, have marked the past year. At the same time, human rights abuses against the Sahrawi population continue.

Western Sahara is divided in two. The majority is occupied by Morocco, while a minority is controlled by the Sahrawi liberation movement Polisario. The UN and the world community recognize Polisario as a legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people. Both Polisario and the administration of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – which is a full member of the African Union (AU) – have its main base all the way west in Algeria. The majority of the estimated 165,000 refugees also live there. The population of occupied Western Sahara is difficult to get an overview of, but it is believed that there are more Moroccan settlers than indigenous Sahrawis, and there are in addition a large number of Moroccan soldiers and police forces.

Morocco’s partners

As a country in Africa listed on Abbreviation Finder, Morocco is increasingly stepping up its exploitation of natural resources in the occupied territories, in cooperation with international companies, despite the UN having stated that such activities are in breach of international law.

In 2009, the search for oil expanded beyond the coast of the territory. Once again, a Norwegian seismic company – this time the Fugro Geoteam from Skøyen – did the investigations.

Norway is also involved in fishing. The Sjøvik group from Møre og Romsdal pays Morocco’s Ministry of Fisheries to obtain fishing licenses in the occupied areas. Saharawis have demonstrated against the Norwegian commitment, which still continues. Hundreds of Moroccan settlers will be employed in the Sjøvik group’s onshore reception facility.

Also in the phosphate industry are Norwegian interests. It was revealed last year that the Government Pension Fund invests in companies that account for two-thirds of all phosphate purchases from the Bou Craa mine in Western Sahara.

Finally, it is also worth noting that until recently tomatoes grown by settlers in Western Sahara have been sold in Norwegian stores, labeled “Morocco”. When it was discovered by the news service Norwatch, Coop stopped imports into Norway.

Negotiations

Negotiations between Morocco and Polisario are organized by UN Special Envoy Christopher Ross, former US ambassador to Algeria. Following the Houston negotiations, initiated in 1997 by former Secretary of State and Special Envoy James Baker III, this is the first time the UN has pushed Polisario and Morocco into direct negotiations. Negotiations resumed in August 2009 after more than a year’s pause. Following negotiations in Vienna in August 2009, both Morocco’s foreign minister and Polisario’s secretary general welcomed new negotiations in December 2009. The AU summit on August 31 passed a resolution highlighting “the urgent need to carry out the referendum as quickly as possible.”

The problem, however, is that Morocco does not want a referendum that is really about self-determination, as understood by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in its 1975 Opinion on Western Sahara (“free and genuine expression of the will of the people of the territory”). In the statement, either full independence or various forms of integration with another state are listed as possible, in accordance with resolutions 1514 and 1541 of the UN General Assembly. The “free and genuine expression of the will of the people” can be identified through a referendum. In Resolution 45/21 of 1990, the UN General Assembly unanimously agreed that “Western Sahara is a matter of decolonization that must be completed on the basis of the Western Saharan people exercising their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.”

The principles enshrined in Security Council Resolution 1871 of April 30, 2009 are that it should be a “just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that ensures self-determination for Western Sahara people,” and the parties are asked to “step into a more intensive and substantial negotiation phase. ”

It is relevant here to recall that the people for whom self-determination works are all inhabiting the territory as of December 31, 1999. It includes an estimated 200,000 Moroccan settlers, according to the Peace Plan for Self-Determination for Western Sahara People, which was supported by a unanimous Security Council in Resolution 1495 of 2003.

On July 3, US President Barack Obama sent a letter to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. In the letter, Obama reiterates that a solution must come as a result of a “UN-led negotiation, which (s) is a suitable forum to reach a mutually acceptable solution.” (World Tribune July 9, 2009). Anonymous diplomatic sources were quoted as saying that a new US policy would be designed. The letter made no reference to Morocco’s proposal to integrate Western Sahara as part of the kingdom, as former President George Bush had suggested he would support.

Human rights

The human rights situation in Western Sahara remained critical in 2009. The UN Force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, is the only UN force in the world that does not have the mandate to observe and report on human rights abuses. Thus, the UN personnel, as a silent witness to all the abuses that take place in the area, stand to the great frustration of the Sahrawi. A proposal in the Security Council to include human rights as part of the MINURSO mandate was blocked by Morocco’s closest ally, France.

A 216-page Human Rights Watch report published in December 2008 described how Sahrawis working for self-determination are being violated freedom of speech, association and assembly. Showing the West Saharan flag publicly is enough to be arrested, and torture of arrested people occurs. Amnesty International writes in its 2009 review of Morocco and Western Sahara that a “culture of impunity” for abusers continues to apply.

On October 8, 2009, seven Sahrawi human rights activists were arrested when they arrived in Casablanca by plane from Algeria. According to Amnesty International, the seven could be charged with treason for their work.

On November 14, another human rights activist, Aminatou Haidar, was rejected as she arrived at El Aaiun airport, after receiving a prize for her work in the United States. Haidar was returned to Lanzarote, where she carried out a 32-day hunger strike until she succeeded in getting permission to enter Western Sahara. By then, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already intervened. The reason for the episode was that she had refused to cross for “Morocco” in the country heading when she first entered Western Sahara.

A dozen Sahrawi human rights activists were deprived of their passports during 2009. This included Sidi Mohammed Daddach, who received the Rafto Prize in Bergen in 2002.

Country facts:

Area: 266 000 km2 (30th largest)

Population: 497 000

Population density per km2: 1.9

Urban population: 81 percent

Largest city: El Aaiún – approx. 200 000

GDP per capita: Not stated

Economic growth: Not stated

HDI location: Not specified