Mbola mahatory...

raha ho avy ralala ny taona hodiako aho ambanin'ny tany tsindrian-drangolahy ka ho vato no solo kidoro hatoriako de izao no mba zavatra ataovinao ahy voleo voninkazo eo an-dohan'ny fasako fotsy sy mavo ary manga sy mena ka avelao haniry eo mandra-pifohako mba hanofisako lay fanekena ny fotsy ho marik'ilay fahadiovana misy aminao tsy mba azo lotoina soratra velona tsy azo vonoina toy ny horom-bato izay nifanaovana ny endrin'ny mavo no fofony manitra dia fivavahana ataoko any an-danitra mba hitsinjovany anao tsy ho irery ombany raha sendra tsy misy mpijery ny manga ho marikik'ilay fihafihana niaraha-niaritra zava-mangidy dia lay andro namoizana ilay fifaliana niaraha-niharitra zava-tsy fidy ny mena ho taratrin'ny afo tsy maty mirehitra lava ao anatin'ny foko io lay fitia,fitia tena anaty fitia voa-kase sy voatomboka loko ny fasako ataovy ao andrefan-tanana ataovy mikasika ny ilan-kamory soraty eo ny tenin'ny fanantenana "tsy maty aho akory fa mbola matory" ny moron'ny rano voleo volotara ka jerijereo fa aza avela ho maina tarafo eo aho fa ho tsinjonao tsara tsy miala eo aho raha tsy efa maraina na dia maty aza anie zany tenako be sy miraraka an-tany ny ra ao am-poko ny fitiavako anao tampetraka anie tsy mba ho faty tsy mba ho lo


Citizen Cyclone Giovanna Watch in Madagascar

Cyclone Giovanna is wrecking havoc in Madagascar.

Hoping everyone is OK back home. If you have information to share, connect here:


At the end of the day...

Apparently, my last write-up here goes back to the end of the year 2010.

For those like me who can't count, that's a long time ago.

Lots have happended since then, both at a global and personal level: revolutions, social crisis, massacres, tsunamis and nuclear disasters. It almost seems like I am making this up.

I would have loved to have the time to digest all of this and write some semblance of reflections but I was caught in a personal spinning wheel myself, with a sequence of life changing events that left me feeling like I just spent the last couple of months in a washing machine.

So here I am, having spent 2 out of the last 6 months in 3 different continents, 9 towns, 5 missions, with 4 different PCs and 3 mobile phones, having the urge to just write; write about something that is not news-related, not newsworthy anyway.

I was never too away from the work at hand, as those who collaborate or know what I do are well-aware of.

There was just too much "stuff" going on to populate this space as well.

So here I am, late at night in Mohammadia, a city I did not know existed 3 weeks ago; with an itch to write, to pause and bare it all on the keyboard, like I used to do.

I come back here knowing that the very few readers probably gave up on me posting something worthwhile a long time ago. There are 120-something spams in the comment section, probably 119 more than the numbers of readers the past week.

Talk about not understanding the meaning of a blog: no updates in 6 months, spams all over the place, geez.... and you call yourself digital-savvy ? ( I don't but my parents do)

It's better this way because I will be talking nonsense hereafter about the meaning of a blog, of online reps and the meaning of, yes, life on the world wide web.

I figured this blog was dead and that I should announced its T.O.D officially, just as a few others of my favorite reads have done recently (freedarko.com etc.).

But I thought better of it. What is it with our obsession with defining a begining, a tipping point and an end to everything ?

If the latest international events have taught us anything, it is that even in those history-defining moments all across the African continent, change is a process, a cycle and it takes time.

A revolution makes two steps forward only to move one step backward  a moment later.

Japan is hit with  a series of unfathomable disasters but people there seem to understand that they cannot let the moment overwhelm them. There is no sense in wondering whether there was the life before the earth quake and the one after the earth quake. There's life, period.

In Africa, despots come and go, eventually. Their removal is sometimes helped (or not) by voices expressing their discontent  in the streets or online.  These moments, debates and reactions are highlighted in the 24 hours new cycle, sensationalized by information channels  that will chew them out quickly and spit it out as soon as the other piece of info comes in. The fact that we turn our attention elsewhere is fine. But by not paying attention to what happens afterwards, we undemine the effort that is being put forth to build something over the long run.

The build up of a democratic system  is taking place and facing big hurdles in Tunisia  and elsewhere.   But we won't pay attention to it anymore because so many lives are lost to war  in Libya, Côte d'Ivoire and many other places. And then, there will always be a new presidential election somewhere soon that will drift our attention elsewhere.

The lasting and simplistic perception of events in Côte d'Ivoire will be of death and hatred. But the fragile effort to reach out to all Ivoirians by some citizens should not be drown out or neglected by out global, compulsive attention deficit disorder.

We outsiders want so badly  to define a beginning, a turning point and an end to every crises we observe.

But there is no such thing as a beginning and an end for the people living the crises, there is only a process.

As international observers, we at least ought to ackowledge that from time to time.




The Year 2010 In Review: the francophone citizen media edition

It appears that tragedy will bookend yet another year rich in remarkable events in the world of francophone citizen media.

The month of January set the tone for the rest of the year with the traumatic fallout from the earthquake in Haiti, the  attacks against the Togolese football team at the African Cup of nations in Cabinda and the firing of tear gas against protesters in Madagascar.  The end of the year did not provide much respite from violence as the ongoing political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire has already claimed close to 173 lives and social tension sparks riots in Tunisia.

The year 2010 was also marked by the 50th anniversary of the independence of  many African countries, highlighted by a controversial military parade at the Champs-Elysees in Paris and the hosting of Young African Leaders Symposium by US president Obama.  Throughout the year, citizen media in Francophone countries was once more at the forefront of information dissemination and often found itself under duress for exercising their right to free speech.

An Ominous Start

The earthquake took everyone by surprise but despite the frequent interruptions of phone services and generally poor access to internet, Haitian citizen media responded to the challenges and provided frequent updates and a much needed on the ground perspectives regarding the recovery effort.

In the midst of the tragedy, a francophone "show of solidarity" was discussed at length when Senegal's president Wade offered free land to Haitians earthquake survivors. The offer was met with a mix of skepticism and support by Senegalese, Haitian and citizen media worldwide.

On February 18th, a coup took place in Niger in which President Mamadou Tandja was captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey, led by led by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna.  The general sentiment of the Nigerien citizen media seemed to go from "blasé" to "good riddance".

The financial crisis also affected the African continent; African bloggers reacted to the apparent differential treatment from the IMF when it comes to helping countries like Greece compared to some African nations.

From financial to natural crises, The northern and western African regions were plagued by prolonged period of rains and severe floods. Morocco, Mauritania, Benin, Nigeria and Togo were amongst the most affected by floods with initial reports often provided by citizen media.

The security and stability of the west African region was also on the mind of bloggers when AQIM made headlines repeatedly by taking hostages  in Mali and killing Michel Germaneau in July and again capturing several employees of AREVA hostages in Niger later that year.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="AQIM Area via Orthuberra on Wikimedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0"][/caption]

Celebrating Independence in Francophone Africa

Despite the weary start, the year 2010 was also supposed to be a celebration of 50 years of independence and a critical election year for many African nations. Yet given the delayed human development progress, questionable governance and mismanagement of natural resources, many African bloggers wonder whether there is really a cause for celebration in Africa so far.

Yet the celebrations went on, sometimes quite lavishly as seen in Brazzaville, Congo.

None of these celebrations caused quite the stir that the military parade of African soldiers on Bastille Day at the invitation of French president Sarkozy provoked. With the growing exposure of the corrupt nature of "La Françafrique",  refering to the relationship between some African leaders and French lobbying groups, many observers pointed out that the presence of African armies at the Champ-Elysees was condescending and awkward at best, not unlike Sarkozy's Dakar speech. [Another speech by the French president in Grenoble this summer about delinquents of foreign origins and the forced expulsions  of Roma people also provoked intense reactions in the francophone blogosphere.]

A  different approach was taken by the US administration in marking the multiple independence anniversaries in Africa. In early august 2010,  US President Obama held a three-days symposium for Young African Leaders to exchange ideas on how to foster development, human rights and democracy.  The emphasis on the youth of Africa was in clear contrast with the presence of the old guards of African leaders showcased on Bastille Day.

Hoping for Transparency

Year 2010 was also supposed to be the year when some African nations would make important strides towards free and transparent elections.

That hope quickly faded away.

The electoral process in Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar and Rwanda were all at some point subject to major question marks, marred with missed deadlines, suspicions of massive fraud and acts of violence.

Yet one has the feeling that citizens in those countries are eager to move forward and prove that mediocre leadership cannot hold countries back forever. The rise of a burgeoning civil society and local citizen media provide hope that progress are being made, often in spite of proper governance.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512" caption="Théophile Kouamouo and Saint-Clavier Oula"][/caption]

The impact of online citizen media has become evident enough that authoritarian African governments have taken major steps towards increasing censorship of digital media. Ivorian bloggers and journalists were arrested in July for publishing documents on corruption in cocoa and coffee trade.  Since the Ivorian political crisis broke out in December, many bloggers and twitter users have withdrawn from their online activities and are no longer posting updates on the situation because of personal threats.

In Madagascar, a slew of journalists and political opponents were arrested for alleged threats against national security and voicing their dissents online.  Steps towards more control of online  content in Madagascar are also being taken,  highlighted by a proposal that all Malagasy digital content are to be be managed by a single private provider (fr).

It is yet to be seen whether this year's lessons from some African nations' electoral hardships  will be learned by their neighbors. Senegal and Cameroon among others will face important electoral deadlines  in 2011. Cameroonian bloggers do not appear overly optimistic about the upcoming elections. As for Senegal, local citizen media has already been quite vocal  about  perceived nepotism and corruption inside the current administration.

It would be a refreshing sight in 2011  if the streak of dubious electoral results and post-electoral violence were to be halted for a change. African leaders owe that much to their resilient population.

[Cross-posted on Global Voices Online]


Foolish Flower (Vonikazo adaladala)

Caught in the middle of a tornado of cable gate, unsavory parallel between post-election drama in Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti and Madagascar, it seemed that now is just right time for a bit of ...poetry.
The following is a translation of a Malagasy poem from Rado aka   Georges Andriamanantena who passed away in 2008 and  was recently joined up there by an other legend of Malagasy literature, Elie Rajoanarison
So here is my poor attempt at translating a masterpiece that was also sung beautifully by the duo of Aina Quash and Eric Manana. It is dedicated to all the foolish but hopeful ones back home, who keep hoping , keep trying, keep believing that one day, we will get it right. And they might just be right.

Foolish Flower, 
Oh mindless flower
Trying to grow on your own
On a dried-up ground
All around you have come and gone
All have gone to sleep
Yet here you are, blooming away
There is also this crazy heart   
that does not know how to let go 
When all signs have gone silent
It keeps on hoping, believing 
It cannot help reminiscing
about that long lost love 
that still lives in our hearts.     
and keeps us awake and alive



Explaining the Context of Political Detentions in Madagascar

*This interview of a close relative to the Ranjeva family is to complete the Global Voices article on the political arrests in Madagascar.

In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in Madagascar on November 17th, the main political opponent of the current regime and former judge of the International Court of Justice Raymond Ranjeva, and his daughter, Riana Ranjeva, are being accused by the Malagasy police for allegedly plotting with the army mutiners.

Madagascar has been marred in a two-year long political crisis that has jeopardized its economy and showed a worrying trend of comtempts for human rights and freedom of speech. Ten journalists of Radio Fahazavana were held in jail from may to september 2010 and dozen of political opponents are still held in the penitentiary of Tsiafahy without trials.

The context of the arrests of Raymond Ranjeva and his daughter are still unclear. The official charges held against the former ICJ Judge are that he is a "threat to national security" . As to his daughter, she is accused of having contempted the police officers that raided her home.

Raymond Ranjeva on the political crisis in Madagascar

A close relative to Raymond Ranjeva has accepted to shed some light on the situation and explain the implications of the recent wave of political arrests for Madagascar' s democracy. A petition has also been circulating to denounce the arrests:

GV: Could you tell us the circumstances of the arrest of Judge Ranjeva and his daughter?

Answer: Just after the end of the so-called mutiny that took place in an army base located 15 kms from Antananarivo, we heard some rumors that the regime has the intention to accuse Judge Ranjeva of being the political leader of this action. We did not take these rumors very seriously. Then, on Sunday, November 21, the police raided Judge Ranjeva's home, where his daughter also resides. Armed police officers searched the residence for evidence of the alleged plot against the transitional government. They found copies of a document written by Judge Ranjeva that delineates a proposal for an exit to the political stalemate in Madagascar. The document is a called "Vonjy Aina" (mg) and it has been made publicly available online for months. The day after, Monday 22, the daughter of Judge Ranjeva and her husband were summoned by the police officers. They were examined during 3 hours. Then, the husband was released, his spouse remained in custody. When he heard that each and everyone of the questions related to "Vonjy Aina", Judge Ranjeva willingly came to the police station. He said to the investigators that he was ready to answer to their questions and to deny the accusation brought against him. He was told that as the business-day was finishing, there was not enough time left for his examination. He was summoned for the day after, but, meanwhile, his daughter was held in custody. Ms. Ranjeva spent the night in the police station. On Tuesday 23, first hour, Judge Ranjeva came again to the police station. He was examined for 12 hours and, during that time, his daughter was held elsewhere in the police station and he was not informed either she would be released or not. Eventually, the father and his daughter left the police station. Three days later, on Friday 26, Judge Ranjeva and his daughter appeared before the prosecutor. There, Ms. Ranjeva was formally accused of having insulted the police officers that raided her home, on Sunday 21. Her trial is to take place on Tuesday, November 30. She was put into provisional detention, waiting for her trial. As for Judge Ranjeva, he is accused of being the leader of the mutiners. No date has been set, but, unlike his daughter, he remains free waiting for his trial.

GV: If we were to understand the process of the arrest correctly, is it accurate to say that Riana Ranjeva-Ratsisalovanina was arrested because she had copies of this document at home ? Is there anything in the document that could be interpreted as "a threat to national security" and was there evidence of an intent to distribute "Vonjy aina"?

A.: Initially, Ms. Ranjeva was summoned and held in custody from Monday 22 morning till Tuesday 23 evening because copies of "Vonjy Aina" were found in her house. During her examination, Ms. Ranjeva was only asked questions directly related to "Vonjy Aina". It was only on Friday 26 evening that, astonishingly, Ms. Ranjeva was formally charged of having allegedly insulted the police officers during the house search that happened on Sunday 21. Firstly, given that the father and the daughter live in the same house, it's not exactly a surprise to find copies of the document there. Secondly, if one reads the document, it is a reflection on the current state of the affairs in Madagascar and the solution Judge Ranjeva proposes. Nowhere in the document would one find that a military intervention was suggested. Judge Ranjeva has never opined that the army gets involved in the matter of the government. As to the arrest of his daughter, let me say this again, everyone can download a copy of "Vonjy Aina" online for free. It is difficult to understand why owning a print copy of this document would constitute a " threat to national security".

GV: Was Riana Ranjeva-Ratsisalovanina mistreated at all when she was held at the police station ?

A: I was told that she was treated correctly and her basic needs were met while she was at the police station.

GV: As far as you know, when will the trials take place for the father and his daughter and will they be released till then?

I was told that Ms Ranjeva's trial should start on November, 30th. She will remain in detention until then. As for Judge Ranjeva, the date of his trial has not yet been set. For the time being, he is free.

GV: It must be a trying time for the family?

A: Indeed, it is certainly stressful but, more disturbingly, in Malagasy political history, it is the very first time that a family member of a political opponent is being specifically targeted in order to silence him. These recent events go beyond the scope of personal view and feelings. We have reached a point in Madagascar where the democratic debate is repressed, where people are denied the expression of dissent opinion towards the current government with arbitrary arrests. These practices are indicative that Madagascar is heading to the wrong direction, to an era of authoritarian ruling where people are bullied into submission and silence. It is very worrisome; our country is rapidly slipping towards dictatorship.


A message in French from the interviewee:

Cet après-midi, le tribunal de première instance d’Antananarivo a reconnu Mme Riana Ranjeva coupable d’outrage à agents publics (article 224 du Code pénal). Elle a été condamnée à 1 mois d’emprisonnement avec sursis. Elle est donc libre ! C’est l’essentiel.

Les propos que des militaires lourdement armés ont trouvé offensants étaient : « Mialà teo ianareo fa izaho tsy mila miaramila mitazona basy ety amin’ny vavahadiko, izaho ihany koa tsy mila miresaka amin’ny olona manao fanamiana. » (Trad. : Éloignez-vous de là car je ne veux pas de militaires qui brandissent leurs armes devant mon portail et je ne veux pas parler à des gens en uniforme.) Cette citation est sortie du procès-verbal d’enquête préliminaire dressé par les enquêteurs le 26 novembre 2010, cinq jours après les faits, qui s’étaient déroulés le dimanche 21 novembre 2010, quand les militaires étaient venus pour perquisitionner, en menaçant de leurs armes, les habitants de la maison.

Ce sont les agents publics offensés qui sont les auteurs de ce procès-verbal.

Les mêmes offensés avaient, juste après la perquisition, dressé un premier procès-verbal. Dans celui-ci, daté du dimanche 21 novembre 2010 au soir, ils ne pipaient mot d’un tel incident. Ils auraient donc mis cinq jours pour comprendre qu’ils étaient insultés quand elle leur disait, en utilisant les mots ci-dessus, qu’elle ne voulait pas, devant son portail, des militaires qui brandissaient des armes.