Madagascar -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Madagascar
Motto: Tanindrazana, Fahafahana, Fandrosoana! (Fatherland, Liberty, Progress!)
Capital(and largest city): Antananarivo
Official languages: Malagasy, French, English
Date of independence (from France): 26 June 1960
Land Area: 587,041 sq km (45th in the world)
Population: 20,042,551 estimated in July 2008 (55th in the world)
Currency: Malagasy ariary (MGA)
Madagascar -- History --
Madagascar, as part of East Gondwana, split from Africa approximately 160 million years ago; the island of Madagascar was created when it separated from India 80 to 100 million years ago. Most archaeologists estimate human settlement of Madagascar to be between 200 and 500 A.D., when seafarers from southeast Asia (probably from Borneo or the southern Celebes) arrived in outrigger sailing canoes. Bantu settlers probably crossed the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar at about the same time or shortly afterwards. However, Malagasy tradition and ethnographic evidence suggests that they may have been preceded by the Mikea hunter gatherers.
The written history of Madagascar begins in the 7th century, when Arab Muslims established trading posts along the northwest coast and first transcribed the Malagasy language into Sorabe. During thå Middle Ages, the chiefs began to extend their power through trade with Indian Ocean neighbors, notably East Africa, the Middle East and India. Large chiefdoms began to dominate considerable areas of the island. Among these were the Sakalava chiefdoms of the Menabe, centred in what is now the town of Morondava, and of Boina, centred in what is now the provincial capital of Mahajanga (Majunga). The influence of the Sakalava extended across what is now the provinces of Antsiranana, Mahajanga and Toliara.
European contact began in the year 1500, when Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sighted the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India.The Portuguese continued trading with the islanders and named the island as "Sao Lourenco" (St. Lawrence). In 1666, Francois Caron, the Director General of the newly formed French East India Company, sailed to Madagascar. The Company failed to establish a colony on Madagascar but established ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon and Ile-de-France (today's Reunion and Mauritius). In the late 17th century, the French established trading posts along the east coast.
From about 1774 to 1824, Madagascar was a favourite haunt for pirates, including Americans, one of whom brought Malagasy rice to South Carolina. Many European sailors were shipwrecked on the coasts of the island, among them Robert Drury whose journal is one of the only written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the 18th century.
Beginning in the 1790s, Merina rulers succeeded in establishing hegemony over most of the island, including the coast. In 1817, the Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius concluded a treaty abolishing the slave trade, which had been important in Madagascar's economy. In return, the island received British military and financial assistance. British influence remained strong for several decades, during which the Merina court was converted to Presbyterianism, Congregationalism and Anglicanism.
With the domination of the Indian Ocean by the Royal Navy and the end of the Arab slave trade, the western Sakalava lost their power to the emerging Merina state. The Betsimisaraka of the east coast also unified, but this union soon faltered.
France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War seeking to restore property that had been confiscated from French citizens. (Hova is one of three Merina classes: andriana - aristocracy, hova - common people, andevo - slaves. The term hova was wrongly used by the French to mean Merina.) At the wars end, Madagascar ceded Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) on the northern coast to France and paid 560,000 gold stripers francs to the heirs of Joseph-Francois Lambert. In 1890 the British accepted the full formal imposition of a French protectorate.
In 1895, a French flying column landed in Mahajanga (Majunga) and marched to the capital, Antananarivo, where the city's defenders were taken by surprise, as they were expecting an attack from the much closer east coast. Twenty French soldiers died fighting and 6,000 died of malaria and other diseases before the second Franco-Hova War ended.
After the conclusion of hostilities, in 1896 the French Parliament voted to annex Madagascar. The 103-year-old Merina monarchy ended with the royal family being sent into exile in Algeria. In December 1904, the Russian Baltic Fleet docked at Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) for coal and provisions before sailing on to its doomed encounter with the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Tsushima. Before leaving port the Russian sailors were required to put ashore the animals they had acquired, including monkeys, boa constrictors and one crocodile.
During World War II, Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco, and Syria. Just before the fall of France, Germany planned to forcibly deport all of Europe's Jews to Madagascar in what was known as the Madagascar Plan. But action on the plan was never begun. After France fell to Germany, the Vichy government administered Madagascar. During the Battle of Madagascar, British troops occupied the strategic island in 1942 to preclude its seizure by the Japanese, after which the Free French took over.
In 1947, with French prestige at low ebb, a nationalist uprising was suppressed after several months of bitter fighting with 90,000 people killed. The French later established reformed institutions in 1956 under the Loi Cadre (Overseas Reform Act), and Madagascar moved peacefully towards independence. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960.
In May 1973, an army coup led by Maj. Gen. Gabriel Ramanantsoa ousted Philibert Tsiranana, president since 1959. Comdr. Didier Ratsiraka, named president on June 15, 1975, announced that he would follow a socialist course and, after nationalizing banks and insurance companies, declared all mineral resources nationalized. Repression and censorship characterized his regime. Ratsiraka was reelected in 1989 in a suspicious election that led to riots as well as the formation of a multiparty system in 1990. In 1991, Ratsiraka agreed to share power with the democratically minded opposition leader, Albert Zafy, who then overwhelmingly won the presidential elections in Feb. 1993. But Zafy was impeached by parliament for abusing his constitutional powers during an economic crisis and lost the 1996 presidential election to Ratsiraka, who became president in Feb. 1997.
The Dec. 2001 presidential election between incumbent president Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana, the mayor of Antananarivo, proved inconclusive and a runoff vote was scheduled. But Ravalomanana claimed the election was rigged, and in Feb. 2002 he declared himself president. In response, Ratsiraka proclaimed martial law and set up a rival capital in Toamasina. Madagascar in effect found itself with two presidents and two capitals. After a recount in April, the high constitutional court declared Ravalomanana the winner with 51.5% of the vote. Ratsiraka, after first refusing to accept the outcome, fled to France in July, and Madagascar's six-month civil war ended. In Dec. 2006 Ravalomanana won reelection with 54.8% of the vote. In January 2007 he appointed Charles Rabemananjara as prime minister.
Madagascar -- Economy --
Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is the mainstay of the Madagascar economy, accounting for 34 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and contributing more than 70 percent to export earnings. Industry features textile manufacturing and the processing of agricultural products. Growth in output in 1992-97 averaged less than the growth rate of the population. Growth has been held back by anti-government strikes and demonstrations, a decline in world coffee demand, and the erratic commitment of the government to economic reform. Formidable obstacles stand in the way of Madagascar's realizing its considerable growth potential; the extent of government reforms, outside financial aid, and foreign investment will be key determinants.
Madagascar's sources of growth are tourism; textile and light manufacturing exports (notably through the EPZs); agricultural products and mining. Madagascar is the world's leading producer of vanilla and accounts for about half the world's export market. Tourism targets the niche eco-tourism market, capitalizing on Madagascar's unique biodiversity, unspoiled natural habitats, national parks and lemur species. Exports from the EPZs, located around Antananarivo and Antsirabe, consist the most part of garment manufacture, targeting the US market under AGOA and the European markets under the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement. Agricultural exports consist of low-volume high-value products like vanilla, litchies and essential oils. Madagascar is the largest cinnamon market in Africa.
A small but growing part of the economy is based on mining of ilmenite, with investments emerging in recent years, particularly near Tulear and Fort Dauphin. Mining corporation Rio Tinto Group expects to begin operations near Fort Dauphin in 2008, following several years of infrastructure preparation. The mining project is highly controversial, with Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations filing reports to detail their concerns about effects on the local environment and communities.
Several major projects are underway in the mining and oil and gas sectors that, if successful, will give a significant boost to the Malagasy economy. In the mining sector, these include the development of coal at Sakoa and nickel near Tamatave. In oil, Madagascar Oil is developing the massive onshore heavy oil field at Tsimiroro and ultra heavy oil field at Bemolanga.
The government of President Marc Ravalomanana is aggressively seeking foreign investment and is tackling many of the obstacles to such investment, including combating corruption, reforming land-ownership laws, encouraging study of American and European business techniques, and active pursuit of foreign investors. President Ravalomanana rose to prominence through his agro-foods TIKO company, and is known for attempting to apply many of the lessons learned in the world of business to running the government. Some recent concerns have arisen about the conflict of interest between his policies and the activities of his firms. Most notable among them the preferential treatment for rice imports initiated by the government in late 2004 when responding to a production shortfall in the country.
Madagascar’s appeal to investors stems from its competitive, trainable work force. More than 200 investors, particularly garment manufacturers, were organized under the country’s export processing zone (EPZ) system since it was established in 1989. The absence of quota limits on textile imports to the European market under the Lome Convention helped stimulate this growth.
Since the mid-1980s, Madagascar has run sizeable balance-of-payment deficits. The current account deficit as a percentage of GDP averaged in excess of 6% during much of the 1990s and registered nearly 4 percent in 1999. Madagascar’s debt ratio, which had reached 46 percent in 1996, was estimated at 15.4% in 2000. Within an overall framework of poverty reduction, the HIPC Initiative was expected to enable the country to reduce its debt service ratio to 5.5% in 2003, and remain at around 5% throughout the projection period 2000-19.
From more than 60% in 1994, the inflation rate dropped to 6.4% in 1998, before rising again to 14.4% in 1999 and 8.7% in 2000.
During a period of solid growth from 1997 to 2001, poverty levels remained stubbornly high, especially in rural areas. A six-month political crisis triggered by a dispute over the outcome of the presidential elections held in December 2001 virtually halted economic activity in much of the country in the first half of 2002. Real GDP dropped 12.7 percent in 2002, inflows of foreign investment dropped sharply, and the crisis tarnished Madagascar's budding reputation as an AGOA standout and a promising place to invest. After the crisis, the economy rebounded with GDP growth of over 10% in 2003. Currency depreciation and rising inflation in 2004 hampered economic performance, but growth for the year reached 5.3%, with inflation reaching around 25% at the end of the year. In 2005 inflation was brought under control by tight monetary policy of raising the Taux Directeur (central bank rate) to 16% and tightening reserve requirements for banks. Thus growth was expected to reach around 6.5% in 2005.
Following the 2002 political crisis, the government attempted to set a new course and build confidence, in coordination with international financial institutions and donors. Madagascar developed a recovery plan in collaboration with the private sector and donors and presented it at a "Friends of Madagascar" conference organized by the World Bank in Paris in July 2002. Donor countries demonstrated their confidence in the new government by pledging $1 billion in assistance over five years. The Malagasy Government identified road infrastructure as its principle priority and underlined its commitment to public-private partnership by establishing a joint public-private sector steering committee.
The Madagascar-U.S. Business Council was formed as a collaboration between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Malagasian artisan producers in Madagascar in 2002. The U.S.-Madagascar Business Council was formed in the United States in May 2003, and the two organisations continue to explore ways to work for the benefit of both groups.
Madagascar -- Culture --
Madagascar people are of various races and follow their own traditional beliefs. Population of this island is approximately about 14,155,000 and people of Madagascar mostly follow the French and Malagasy dialects. The Madagascar people are mainly of the mixed Asian and African origins. Malagasy is the original language of the people of Madagascar yet French is the second popular language and it is due to the prevalent French colonies in Madagascar from the very beginning.
The Madagascar people constitute an amalgamation of races like Indonesians, Black Africans, Christians and Muslims respectively. About 55 % of the followers are of traditional beliefs whereas 40% are the followers of Christianity. Muslims form a small minority of the population and they barely constitute 5% of the population. Most of the Madagascar people reside in rural areas and only one third of the population lives in cities or towns.
Madagascar people love wearing traditional clothes and they prefer various shades of vibrant color. European styled outfits are quite prevalent in Madagascar dressing. The staple food of the Madagascar people generally consists of rice, vegetables, meat, fish and fruits.
Education is compulsory for five years in the Madagascar society and each area has its own individual schools and the highest literacy rate in Africa is in Madagascar itself. Traditionalism and culture is much prevalent among the Madagascar people and they strictly follow their faith and age old rituals.
The land of Madagascar is a hub of various exotic rare flora and fauna of the world and is really a country of hidden secrets. The Madagascar people form a very colorful and vibrant Madagascar society and culture and it is unique in the whole world.
Òhe textile arts of Madagascar are one of the major Madagascar arts and play an important role in weaving expressive clothing. The hand-woven clothes of Madagascar are known as “lamba” and are generally used as a ceremonial gift and are a symbol of the island's rich cultural heritage. As per the tradition of Madagascar, men offer clothes to brides in the marriage ceremony and the bride and groom are encircled in single cloth as a symbol of their union forever. Clothes are also offered to the ancestors and it forms the part of the marriage ceremony.
Various other forms of Madagascar art includes fantasy art, art wall, poster art, impressionist art, light house art, modern art and many more. Each of these Madagascar art depicts the Madagascar society and culture of past and present very precisely. Madagascar art is represented well in various ways and the subject matter varies considerably from the educational themes to the world cultures.
Various artists of Madagascar are responsible for the creation of the intricate art of Madagascar. The children of Madagascar are no less than any artist and one will be amazed to watch the beautiful artwork of the children. The children of Madagascar participate in the global art competition and they have made their mark on the global arena of art.
The tradition of art and craft is an age-old phenomenon in Madagascar. French texts of the 19th century show records of Madagascar art. But it took some time to take it to world arena. It was only in the 20th century that art and craft of Madagascar began to be exhibited in the Western world. It was only then that the indigenous art forms gained international recognition and popularity.
Madagascar Food reflects the culinary interests of people belonging to various cultures, such as the Arabs, the Indonesians, the African, the French, and so on. The traditions of the ethnic groups of Madagascar have also played a major part in the evolution of Madagascar food.
A traditional meal of Madagascar is eaten sitting on the floor. The food items are served in a single plate and eaten with a spoon. The meal is not accompanied by drinks of any kind. Starters, snacks, etc do not feature in the main meal. The traditional meal consists of three to four dishes and the meal ends with a dessert, generally made from fruits and vanilla.
It is a tradition in Madagascar to serve meals when they are steaming hot. Cold food is not so popular among the people of Madagascar. Amongst the specialities of Madagascar cuisine, Ro and Ravitoto rank high in the order. Ro is made by mixing rice with herbs and fragrant leaves. It forms the staple diet of Madagascar. Along with Ro people eat Ravitoto which is a preparation of meat and herbs. People of Madagascar love to have beef and pork that is deep fried in oil and spices. Madagascar food also includes beverages and drinks such as toaka gasy, betsa and litchel.
Madagascar food uses a variety of ingredients that are are grown on the island. The various species of edible plants growing in Madagascar lends some of the most important parts of the meal, the fruits and vegetables. Fish and poultry also feature as ingredients of a meal. Soups and curries form important items of food in Madagascar.
Madagascar food is cooked using simple methods and techniques. The food of Madagascar is tasty and delicious, but too much spice is avoided. A dish made from rice is accompanied by vegetables and curries. The simplicity of Madagascar food adds to the charm of the dishes. The beverage made from burning rice, Ranonapango, is served with Madagascar food.
The blend of cultural influences is evident in the music of the Malagasy people, which can be roughly divided into three categories: traditional, contemporary, and popular music.
Traditional instruments include the valiha, a bamboo tube zither very similar in form to those used traditionally in western Indonesia. The strings were originally raised from the fibers of the bamboo tube itself, although a contemporary form also exists that uses bicycle brake cables for strings instead to give the instrument a punchier sound. The sodina, an end-blown flute, is also typical of the region. The kabosy is a four to six-stringed simple guitar common in the southern Highlands. Also emblematic of the region are the marovany, a wooden box with a set of metallic strings on both sides, which produces a sound similar to the valiha, and metal or wood harmonicas.
Vocal traditions in Madagascar are most often polyharmonic; southern vocal styles bear strong resemblance to South African song (as exemplified by groups such as Salala or Senge), whereas Highland harmonies, strongly influenced in the past two hundred years by European church music, are more reminiscent of Hawaiian or other Polynesian vocal traditions. Musical performance in Madagascar has often been associated with spiritual functions; music is a key component in achieving a trance state in tromba spiritual rituals practiced in several regions of the island, and has long been central to the famadihana ceremony (periodic reburial of ancestors' shroud-wrapped mortal remains).
In addition to its spiritual and entertainment functions, musical performance in the Highlands took on a distinctly political and educative role through the hiragasy (hira: song; gasy: Malagasy). The hiragasy is a day-long spectacle of music, dance, and oratory performed by a troupe- typically related by blood or marriage and of rural origin- or as a competition between two troupes. The tradition began in the late 18th century when Merina prince Andrianampoinimerina first used musicians to draw a crowd for his political speeches; these troupes became independent, and began to incorporate political commentary and critique in their performances. The audience plays an active role at hiragasy events, expressing their satisfaction with the talent of the troupe members and the message they express through applause, cheers or sounds of disapproval. Hiragasy troupes were used during the French colonial administration to communicate decrees and other information to the rural population in the Highlands, and as such troupe members were exempt from the forced labor requirements imposed on all other Malagasy
Traditional instruments are not common at hiragasy performances, due to the origins of the performance with the royal court, where European influences reigned. Instead, the most common instruments are violins, trumpets, and snare and bass drums; the sodina, accordion, kabosy or clarinet may occasionally make an appearance.
Madagascar -- Political system, law and government --
Politics of Madagascar takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Madagascar is head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Senate and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Madagascar's first President, Philibert Tsiranana, was elected when his Social Democratic Party gained power at independence in 1960 and was reelected without opposition in March 1972. However, he resigned only 2 months later in response to massive antigovernment demonstrations. The unrest continued, and Tsiranana's successor, Gen. Gabriel Ramanantsoa, resigned on February 5, 1975, handing over executive power to Lt. Col. Richard Ratsimandrava, who was assassinated 6 days later. A provisional military directorate then ruled until a new government was formed in June 1975, under Didier Ratsiraka.
During the 16 subsequent years of President Ratsiraka's rule, Madagascar continued under a government committed to revolutionary socialism based on the 1975 Constitution establishing a highly centralized state. During this period a strategy of nationalization of private enterprises, centralization of the economy and "Malgasization" of the education system crippled the economy, leaving traces even today of a highly centralized economic system and a high level of illiteracy. National elections in 1982 and 1989 returned Ratsiraka for a second and third 7-year presidential term. For much of this period, only limited and restrained political opposition was tolerated, with no direct criticism of the president permitted in the press.
With an easing of restrictions on political expression, beginning in the late 1980s, the Ratsiraka regime came under increasing pressure to make fundamental changes. In response to a deteriorating economy, Ratsiraka relaxed socialist economic policies and instituted some liberal, private-sector reforms. These, along with political reforms like the elimination of press censorship in 1989 and the formation of more political parties in 1990, were insufficient to placate a growing opposition movement known as Hery Velona ("Active Forces"). A number of already existing political parties and their leaders, among them Albert Zafy and Rakotoniaina Manandafy, anchored this movement which was especially strong in Antananarivo and the surrounding high plateau.
In response to largely peaceful mass demonstrations and crippling general strikes, Ratsiraka replaced his prime minister in August 1991 but suffered an irreparable setback soon thereafter when his troops fired on peaceful demonstrators marching on Iavoloha, the suburban presidential palace, killing more than 30.
In an increasingly weakened position, Ratsiraka acceded to negotiations on the formation of a transitional government. The resulting "Panorama Convention" of October 31, 1991, stripped Ratsiraka of nearly all of his powers, created interim institutions, and set an 18-month timetable for completing a transition to a new form of constitutional government. The High Constitutional Court was retained as the ultimate judicial arbiter of the process.
In March 1992, a widely representative National Forum organized by the FFKM (Malagasy Christian Council of Churches) drafted a new Constitution. Troops guarding the proceedings clashed with pro-Ratsiraka "federalists" who tried to disrupt the forum in protest of draft constitutional provisions preventing the incumbent president from running again. The text of the new Constitution was put to a nationwide referendum in August 1992 and approved by a wide margin, despite efforts by federalists to disrupt balloting in several coastal areas.
Presidential elections were held on November 25, 1992, after the High Constitutional Court had ruled, over Hery Velona objections, that Ratsiraka could become a candidate. Runoff elections were held in February 1993, and the leader of the Hery Velona movement, Albert Zafy, defeated Ratsiraka. Zafy was sworn in as President on March 27, 1993. After President Zafy's impeachment by the National Assembly in 1996 and the short quasi-presidency of Norbert Ratsirahonana, the 1997 elections once again pitted Zafy and Ratsiraka, with Ratsiraka this time emerging victorious. A National Assembly dominated by members of President Ratsiraka'a political party AREMA subsequently passed the 1998 Constitution, which considerably strengthened the presidency.
In December 2001, a presidential election was held in which both major candidates claimed victory. The Ministry of the Interior declared incumbent Ratsiraka of the AREMA party victorious. Marc Ravalomanana contested the results and claimed victory. A political crisis followed in which Ratsiraka supporters cut major transport routes from the primary port city to the capital city, a stronghold of Ravalomanana support. Sporadic violence and considerable economic disruption continued until July 2002 when Ratsiraka and several of his prominent supporters fled to exile in France. In addition to political differences, ethnic differences played a role in the crisis and continue to play a role in politics. Ratsiraka is from the coastal Betsimisaraka tribe and Ravalomanana comes from the highland Merina tribe.
After the end of the 2002 political crisis, President Ravalomanana began many reform projects, forcefully advocating "rapid and durable development" and the launching of a battle against corruption. December 2002 legislative elections gave his newly formed TIM (Tiako-I-Madagasikara) (I Love Madagascar) Party a commanding majority in the National Assembly. November 2003 municipal elections were conducted freely, returning a majority of supporters of the president, but also significant numbers of independent and regional opposition figures.
Following the crisis of 2002, the President replaced provincial governors with appointed PDSs (Presidents des Delegations Speciales). Subsequent legislation established a structure of 22 regions to decentralize administration. In September 2004, the Government named 22 Regional Chiefs, reporting directly to the President, to implement its decentralization plans. Financing and specific powers for the regional administrations remain to be clarified.
The Parliament has two chambers. The National Assembly (Antenimieram-Pirenena/Assemblee Nationale) has 160 members, elected for a four year term in single-member and two-member constituencies. The Senate (Senat) has 90 members, 60 members elected for a six year term, 10 for each province by provincial electors, and 30 members appointed by the president.
Territorial administration is to be determined by legislation. In an effort to decentralize administration, the constitution calls for the six provinces (faritany) to become autonomous. The provinces are Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina, Toliara.
Information sources: Wikipedia.org and Infoplease.com