(I’m still “away” but I couldn’t let this go unremarked…)
Thousand of protesters took to the streets, waving the orange flags of the opposition. Before long, looting began. Buildings were set on fire. But the turning point came when a crowd moved from the main square towards the presidential palace. Amid the confusion, someone panicked and gave the order to the troops guarding the palace to open fire. Scores died. The leaders of the army decided they’d had enough and stormed the palace, causing the president to flee.
A typical African coup d’état? Not quite. Certainly there were allegations of corruption in high places. The president had bought a private jet – from a member of the Disney family – for his own personal use. He was accused of unnecessary extravagance, of mismanaging public funds and confusing the interests of the state with his own. But something else had whipped up the protesters in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, earlier this year, when the government of Marc Ravalomanana was overthrown in the former French colony.
The urban poor were angry at the price of food, which had been high since the massive rise in global prices of wheat and rice the year before. Food-price rises hit the poor worse than the rest of us because they spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. But what whipped them into action was news of a deal the government had recently signed with a giant Korean multinational, Daewoo, leasing 1.3 million hectares of farmland – an area almost half the size of Belgium and about half of all arable land on the island – to the foreign company for 99 years. Daewoo had announced plans to grow maize and palm oil there – and send all the harvests back to South Korea.
Wow—why didn’t we see this coming? Oh wait, we did…
You might believe internet propoganda and think that that 45% of the population (9 million and change at last estimate) are Christian; about half of those Roman Catholic, we have some 120,000 Anglicans in the area. Americans, however, are better informed and know that Madagascar is populated entirely by animated animals who make popular movies, so it’s all good.
I’m glad the Anglican Communion isn’t being distracted by little things like this and is hard at work on restructuring around genital issues.
(And lest you have any qualms, have no fear; this item is entirely unrelated to the whole neo-colonialism thing. No relation in any way.)