- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Madagascar: Amidst Turmoil, Media Misinformation and Hard Truths

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Development, Digital Activism, Politics, War & Conflict

More than a month and a half into the crisis in Madagascar, confusion grows crescendo [1] as the power struggle [2] between the president and a former mayor vying for the presidency extends, leaving many wondering when the political stalemate will end [3].

Additionally, the media wars have gotten so contentious that every single news items produced by local media is now questioned [4] by many Malagasy citizens, all too weary of the risk of misinformation [5].

However, a few op-ed articles seeking to understand the roots of the crisis between President Marc Ravalomanana and the former mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, have struck a chord in the national psyche and were shared extensively within the Malagasy blogosphere.

On the heels of the media

Instances of contradicting information and confusion in mainstream media in Madagascar have been abundant within the past week:

In summary, the situation is a much tangled web that requires further digging into the Malagasy collective psyche.

Patrols in the streets (via http://ariniaina.wordpress.com/) [19]

Patrols in the streets (http://ariniaina.wordpress.com)

The psyche of a nation challenged

Enter Ndimby A.'s editorial in the Madagascar Tribune daily newspaper entitled: “Auto-derision” [20] (fr) or “Self-depreciation”:

In his piece, Ndimby strives to expose the very nature of the Malagasy collective culture that allows for repeated cycle of political instability throughout Malagasy history and chronic bouts with extreme poverty. He lists several reasons [20], some are highlighted below (fr):

Le complexe de l’insulaire:
Nous nous sentons intelligents. Nous nous sentons doués. Et la pauvreté ou les crises politiques ne peuvent donc qu’être des accidents de parcours. De la faute des bailleurs de fonds, de la faute des politiciens, de la faute des réseaux mafieux, de la faute à pas de chance, de la faute au voisin, de la faute aux grandes puissances, de la faute aux cyclones, de la faute au karma, de la faute des autres. Mais, ne faisons-nous pas partie des autres ?

The insularity complex:
We think we are smart. We think were skilled. That poverty and political crises could only be caused by misfortune. That they are due to faults by aid funds, politicians, the mob networks, bad luck, the neighbor, powerful countries, cyclones, karma, i.e others’ faults. But aren't we also part of those others?

Le malgache et le développement:
Le malgache est-il fait pour le développement? Le malgache est-il fait pour la démocratie? A priori ces deux questions peuvent sembler être provocatrices, voire choquantes. En fait, elles le sont. Mais au-delà de la provocation, le contexte de cette crise politique et la situation de notre pays après 50 ans d’Indépendance invitent à une véritable réflexion sur la mentalité malgache, sur nos valeurs et sur nos défauts.
Dictons, proverbes et autres expressions usuelles sont une bonne illustration de la mentalité populaire. Or que dit-on à Madagascar? Ny hazo avo halan-drivotra (le vent a horreur des arbres trop hauts), véritable hymne à la médiocrité pour appeler chacun à ne pas se faire remarquer et à ne surtout pas faire de zèle.

Malagasy people and development:
Are Malagasy people built for development? Are they built for democracy? At first glance, the two questions may seem controversial, even shocking. In fact, they are. But beyond the controversial aspect, the current context begs us to reconsider our mentality, our values and our shortcomings.
Proverbs and common sayings usually illustrate well the common state of mind. What do we say in Madagascar? Ny hazo avo halan-drivotra: “The Wind Detests the Trees that Stand Out” An authentic ode to mediocrity that call everyone to blend in and by any means, not be too zealous.

… la culture Malgache est une culture de marimaritra iraisana, qui ne signifie pas toujours consensus (ce qui aurait été une bonne chose), mais plutôt compromis. Dans le pire des cas, le marimaritra iraisana est le mauvais arrangement. C’est la compromission qui a fait tout le monde courber l’échine devant les abus de Marc Ravalomanana depuis 2002, pour éviter les « problèmes ». [..] C’est la compromission qui a fait que tout le monde, au début, a trouvé son compte dans les agissements de Andry Rajoelina, avant de s’effarer de ce train à grande vitesse sans frein ni marche arrière.

… the Malagasy culture is a culture made of marimaritra iraisana, it does not always mean consensus (which would be a good thing) but rather compromise. In the worst case, it is a bad arrangement. It is compromise that let everyone bow down to Ravalomanana since 2002, so that we avoid “problems”[..] It is compromise that led everyone to go along with the actions of Andry Rajoelina, before suddenly realizing that the TGV might be a high speed train without brakes or a reverse gear.

Bloggers take stock

Ndimby's tirade is echoed by a few bloggers on both sides of the conflicts, who are weary of the lack of leadership and the confusion.

Jentilisa writes (in absentia) about the latest events leading up to a pro-governmental rally attended by about 1,000 people in Mahamasina [21] today (mg):

Koa satria tsy handray andraikitra ny mpitandro ny filaminana amin'izao fandrobana mahatsiravina, 26 janoary 2009-bis notontosaina androany 9 martsa 2009 izao, dia niantso ny mpanohana ny ara-dalàna sy tsy manaiky ny hisian'ny barazy arahina fandrobana ny tao amin'ny radio mada

As we witnessed a repetition of the events of January 26th today (March 9th), and as the security forces will once again not accept responsibility while a disaster takes place, a call for a rally was placed on Radio Mada today to everyone who supports the rule of law and who does not accept the presence of blockades.

At the other hand of the spectrum, Avylavitra calls out the government for stealing the air waves frequency of Viva Radio [16] (mg):

Tsy nampoizina anefa ny zava-misy fa hay ny RADIO MADA no io henion’ny rehetra amin’ny onjam-peon’ny Viva io… Filana ady ve sa fihantsiana no anton’izany?

To my surprise, instead of VIVA radio, one started to hear RADIO MADA on Viva's frequency… why would one do that: provocation or aggression ?

Others, like Tahina, are wondering whether talks of the conflict escalating to civil war [22] are now justified:

It’s no longer safe to talk politics in public areas (buses included) because you don’t know who’s listening to you and on which side they are. A simple rumour about you can harm you or your relatives.

Blogger Pakysse has one simple request for the two rivals (mg): that they should talk to each other [23].