On the 6th of November last, during the 34th session of the UN Universal Periodic Review, the CETIM organised a parallel conference on the theme of poverty and human rights violations in Madagascar.
The Malagasy population is among the poorest in the world. The inhabitants, the majority of whom live in rural areas, live on less than two American dollars a day and have only limited access to drinking water and electricity.
Added to this extreme poverty, during the parallel conference organised by the CETIM to report human rights violations on the island, members of different Malagasy associations who were present at the UN reported insecurity and repression.
The theft of zebus and summary executions
The dahalo, or zebu theft was originally carried out by Malagasy people from the cultures in the south of the island. This tradition has been hijacked by armed groups and is now associated with organised crime that spreads terror, pillaging and torture and is thought to have caused over 4000 deaths in recent years. Most of the victims are innocent peasants who are wrongly accused of being dahalos.
According to Malagasy human rights activists, the bandits are apparently instructed by people who are financially or politically powerful to attack communities and villages in the south to force them off the land. “(…) if the state continues to do nothing and the perpetrators are not punished, there are suspicions that the government is instructing these people”, said Paolo Emilio Raholinarivo Solonavalona, president and founding member of the Malagasy Youth Association for the Protection of Human Rights, Democracy and Republican Values, after attending the UN conference.
On the other hand, during police operations summary executions of villagers are carried out under the pretext of combating the dahalos.
Paolo Emilio Raholinarivo Solonavalona explains: “The indirect displacement of peasants could be related to fertile lands”. Several local witnesses back up this version of events. In fact, the local areas affected by these massacres and executions are situated in zones where the subsoil is exceptionally valuable. In addition to rearing cattle, it contains significant and varied mineral resources.
“The riches are exploited by multinationals, which inhabitants oppose” explains Hanitra Bakolinirina Ramanankilana, president of the Vie Neuve Association for the promotion of human rights. She continues, “The population ask: help us cultivate the land, don’t hunt us. But the state does nothing”.
The death penalty was abolished in Madagascar and as a result, there is no valid motive to justify these summary executions. Why are they carried out and why are they still going unpunished?
For Hanitra Bakolinirina Ramanankilana, the real problem is the weak government. “The rule of law must be strengthened, to combat corruption and impunity by transposing all international laws on humanitarian rights into national legislation, by imposing appropriate penalties on the perpetrators of these crimes”.