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Devastation, Madagascar

France's Total and US based Madagascar Oil tangle with military governments to push tar sands projects forward

by Macdonald Stainsby

local Malagasy villagers in Ambonara, a village perhaps a mile from the main offices of Total and who rely on the same river that Total proposes to draw their water. Photo: Macdonald Stainsby
local Malagasy villagers in Ambonara, a village perhaps a mile from the main offices of Total and who rely on the same river that Total proposes to draw their water. Photo: Macdonald Stainsby
Jean-Pierre Ratsimbazafy stands in a filled in area used to dump waste tailings by Total's mining exploration. Photo: Macdonald Stainsby
Jean-Pierre Ratsimbazafy stands in a filled in area used to dump waste tailings by Total's mining exploration. Photo: Macdonald Stainsby

Total's proposed tar sands operation in Madagascar is potentially the dirtiest mining operation its kind in the world, in a region where the local people have few options but to live next to it. If, as some charge, Total helped bring down a democratically elected government in order to install a regime that would favour their tar sands project, it's likely that international campaigns against Total and their social and environmental record could well expand.

In 2008 Total bought a 60% stake in the Bemolanga tar sands field, a field that they predict may operate at just under 200 000 barrels per day of bitumen using strip mining techniques developed in Alberta, Canada. The bitumen is less 'pure' in place, which means it will produce more toxic tailings and require even more water usage than the already notorious strip mines north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. If developed, the Bemolanga mine would rival the largest of the mines in operation today.

Not unlike Alberta, for at minimum of 20 years after the start of operations, Madagascar will only receive 1% in royalty payments from this development. An index published by the World bank ranks Madagascar as the 12th poorest country in the world, wedged between Nepal and Afghanistan.

France, the former colonial master of Madagascar, had seen its influence waning in the country under the previous presidency of 'Marc' Ravalomanana-- a free market leaning leader who had sought stronger ties with the United States. Part of Ravalomanana's program saw the country attempt a break with what is still often called “Françafrique”, which refers to the continued dominance of France in the economic and political relations of multiple former colonies across Africa. Though the details are undisclosed, local and international observers believe that the successful coup, which was led by former disc-jockey (and 36 years young) Andry Rajoelina in March of 2009, was a military reaction against breaking from the traditional French relations.

 

Tar sands at the heart of a coup?

That thesis is backed up by disputes that have emerged between the American-centred Madagascar Oil and the current government. Madagascar Oil was told early on after the coup that the government wanted to “renegotiate” their standing contracts and licenses. MO halted all exploration in several of their blocks, including the large Tsimiroro deposit. Total, however, suffered no such pressures.

A $100 million windfall for Madagascar Oil at the end of November, 2010 renewed speculation that a new push to develop the Madagascar's tar sands deposits is on. The November announcement that the first public offering of a company that has yet to produce petroleum for market had received an injection of cash raised on the Alternative Investment Market in the UK came at a tumultuous time, just weeks after an another attempted coup, this time against the French-leaning coup leader Rajoelina, and was followed by a stop trade order on December 17 barely two weeks later after Rajoelina has now apparently re-consolidated power.

Despite the name and the cute ring-tailed lemur in the corporate logo, Madagascar Oil is an American entity based in Houston, Texas. In 2008, Madagascar Oil indicated that it was lacking in sufficient overhead capital and mining technology to develop the tar sands deposit that is similar to Alberta, but much heavier and harder to extract in the Central Western coastal region of Melaky, while retaining full control of a second in-situ deposit to its immediate south.
 

In August of 2010, I left Antananarivo, and drove westward towards the Melaky region to investigate the impacts of the proposed tar sands projects. The roads start out paved, then gravel, and from there, the road is a mish-mash of red-clays and gravel with more potholes on it than any other such road I have seen in my lifetime. The distance to the Melaky Region is less than 300 kilometers, but it took 14 hours to drive, a vast improvement over the 3 days it took a couple of years ago. When I arrived, I met with locals who are organizing around the tar sands.

“There is a problem with the new [Rajoelina] government and Madagascar Oil, not with the new government and Total. The new government tried to review the contracts between the government and Madagascar Oil. With Total, it's okay,” said Jean-Pierre Ratsimbazafy, who lives and works on social and environmental issues with a community based NGO in the Melaky region, as well as with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar. In the months following, MO did the pubic offering and rescinding, all oddly coinciding with the attempt and then apparent failure of members of the military to re-overthrow the government once again.

 "Following a meeting between the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons and Madagascar Oil in Antananarivo late on 16 December, the Ministry has indicated that it is interested in acquiring from the Company all of its licences excluding Bemolanga," a representative from Madagascar Oil told the UK Guardian on December 17, 2010. That Madagascar Oil executives admit the government wishes to take over their claims lays credence to the possibility of Total's involvement behind the scenes. Bemolanga is the only exploration block that is majority owned by Total.

 Whatever the behind the scenes details are, the tightening of what amount to sanctions from the United States, and several African countries, the implication of France, Holland, Morocco and the World Bank in financing illegal exports of rosewood trees from the famous national parks that are home to the equally famous lemurs, the exodus of investors and further increased poverty indicators (due, in part, to a switch over to the informal sector from many formerly employed persons in the waning export sector) have all been results of the 2009 military ascension to power of a man who, until a recent referendum, was too young to constitutionally be the president. In fact, it is widely believed the bulk of the illegal logging money was going into the hands of those in the military loyal to the coup leader Rajoelina.

 

Locals organize in the face of social and ecological costs

While Total SA has earned enmity in Canada for both proposed upgrading facilities and mines, the direct impact on the human population of Melaky, one of Madagascar's poorest regions may end up coming at an even higher social and environmental cost.

“In the [Melaky] region, the problems are deforestation & the consequences of the fires,  and recently there are many companies who explore petroleum here,” said Ratsimbazafy. Along with these issues, there are also possible uranium mining sites and offshore oil exploration in a major whale corridor.

“In Bemolanga now, there are two problems. One problem is a social problem,” said Ratsimbazafy. Total has already relocated the local population for this development: “They drove the villagers out of the site of Bemolanga,” he said. There is also the ecology, the water, the lands and desertification, affecting the people living near the Bemolanga deposit.

 More than just lemurs, 60 percent of the birds in Madagascar don't exist anywhere else in the world. Same goes for 85 per cent of the fauna, every mammal other than bats and 96 per cent of the dung beetle varieties.

Yet the Bemolanga field lies in a vastly dry and deforested area, one where villages of a few hundred or less live with zero services or power are scattered across the landscape. Though eco-tourism has been one of the mainstays of the country since the collapse of an old socialist collective model some 20 years ago, few adventure seekers would travel to the areas Total and Madagascar Oil seek to develop. The people in the area constantly re-burn the grasses to provide fresh grass shoots for the zebus and chickens that they raise, some for their own sustenance, and some for export to the more urbanized centres of the country.

“The villagers currently use the land to plant kassava and potatoes, and in the natural forests there are natural yams the villagers seek for food,” explained Ratsimbazafy. The natural forest he refers to takes less than ten minutes to drive across. It's all that is left.“In Bemolanga there is very little water, so in the dry season there is no water-- Total says they will collect the water, but on the site of the Bemolanga [mine] there is no [water] reserve," said Ratsimbazafy.

There is only one large river near Bemolanga and it is a mere trickle of water compared to the Athabasca River near the giant mines in Canada. Multiple villages rely on the water-- untreated, of course-- for everything from drinking to washing to supplying water for their livestock (who wander the landscape without fences) to fishing for extra food. There is no water to spare. Each family in the villages gathers an average of five buckets of water a day, transported by foot and carried on their heads.

If the mostly Dene and Cree hamlet of Fort Chipewyan is ground zero for tar sands development in Alberta, villages like Ambonara approximately a mile from the operations plant that bears Total's name are ground zero in Madagascar. They have an even more direct reliance on the water, and have no such thing as a treatment plant or plumbing of any sort.

As for benefits, much like similar villages around the world near extractive plants they have had the local liaison office of Total SA hand out t-shirts, hats and promising local wealth to end all of their daily problems-- and not warning them whatsoever of massive new ones that may begin. The experimental project has so far disturbed only small blocks of land with mining, and has created 10 small tailings ponds, all of which are now filled over and even planted-- with trees that do not naturally occur in the area.

 

You see men wearing Total shirts and hats all over the neighbouring regions, especially in Morafenobe, a town of perhaps 1000 people that is a short drive from Bemolanga and Tsimiroro, the two large tar sands deposits that exist in Madagascar. This town is likely to expand rapidly if Total moves ahead with strip mining operations here, though the privately owned airport that Total runs right near their plant suggests they may already be planning to bring in workers from outside the region. Their airport has a giant Total windsock, visible from the much smaller villages near Bemolanga. If one place struck my thoughts wandering about Morafenobe, it was Fort McMurray, Canada- the town of debauchery that hosts the majority of those who work in the mines run by Syncrude, Suncor and Albian Sands, among others.

Madagascar is famous for it's ecology, but the poorest region in the country is also in the most barren, perhaps keeping “big win” organizations that often only attempt to protect areas that look spectacular on a postcard away from trying to halt the project. Some individuals have even written that “at least this is nowhere near the national parks and the lemurs,” and similar sentiments. Total is, however, already relocating people who have lived there for generations, some of whom are members of the poorest communities in one of the world's poorest countries.

The villagers whose lives and land seem to hang in the balance are not lost, yet. There has been one upside to the coup, which is that the Alliance Vohary Gasy has sprung up to coordinate popular resistance across Madagascar. Their stated goal is that no longer shall the government of Antananarivo and foreign corporations decide without the input of the people as to what developments should take place in the country. Without taking sides in the dispute in governance, they advocate for community level democracy to expand. They have done so, in part, because the international community has mostly left since the coup of 2009. Positive resistance often takes place because of the most dire circumstances, and a feeling of the need to act independently of others whose help seems to have dissipated.
 


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Macdonald (Macdonald Stainsby)
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"If one place struck my

"If one place struck my thoughts wandering about Morafenobe, it was Fort McMurray, Canada- the town of debauchery that hosts the majority of those who work in the mines run by Syncrude, Suncor and Albian Sands, among others." "Town of DEBAUCHERY" !! What could your agenda possibly be to talk about this town and its residents this way? You know nothing. For some reason you are attempting to radicalize people against this responsible development of a critical energy source. Shame on you!!!

are you from alberta?

lots of us call it Fort mcCrack.  Do you know about crack cocaine? or cocaine? or the social costs of drug abuse, the costs to individuals or families? Everyone knows someone who works in fort McCrack. Ask them about the social impacts of the tar sands. Use direct questions and critical language.

Did you know that you just have to pass the piss test before you go back up? not once your there? common knowledge amongst oil workers who take hard drugs. did you know that hard drugs show less easily in a piss test than marijauna? Common knowledge.  Did you know it doesn't matter to the union how many times you piss positive for hard drugs, your welcome back to fort mcMoney when you piss clean. I mean, I'm glad their not prejudiced against drug users, but, just sayin, in case peeps are curious.

What are the "reasonable" social costs of the tar sands? What is fort McCrack like? for drug dealers? for prostitutes? for social workers? Ask a social worker, maybe.

 

While Ravalomanana may have

While Ravalomanana may have been democratically elected, he was deeply unpopular by the time he was deposed. Part of the reason behind his unpopularity was that he contracted out 1.3 million hectares of prime agriculutral lands to Daewoo Logistics (one of the successor firms to the former giant Daewoo conglomerate), which specialises in transport and energy and has been busy acquiring lands to grow oil palm and corn, presumably for ethanol production.

The military-backed Rajoelina government promptly cancelled the deal with Daewoo, earning it some popularity (and sending Daewoo looking for and finding land in Indonesia). This of course doesn't absolve him of other shady dealings nor of being, after all, a coup leader, but it is too easy to blame him for everything that's gone awry when the previous government were equal if not better at wheeling and dealing. The article cites US sanctions and investor flight as inherently negative consequences even though one is a symptom of a struggle between picking your overlord (US or France) and the second is maybe desirable considering said investors wanted to turn half of Madagascar into a biofuel factory farm. Whether or not Rajoelina actually is part of the loose network referred to as Françafrique/Mafiafrique is also a question, considering his relationship with (French foreign minister) Kouchner is strained at best (that said, Kouchner is also particularly inept at doing any job, so the strained relationship might be a personal issue, not a sign of fissure in Françafrique).

That said, i agree very much with the final paragraph: "Without taking sides in the dispute in governance, they advocate for community level democracy to expand." Exactly. The dispute in governance we are seeing is between one devil and the next, between subjugation to traditional capital (from colonial metropole France) or new capital (from the US, China, the gulf states, or southeast asia), between selling out to tar sands or selling out to biofuels, etc. Community-level sovereignty over land is the only way forward if we are to see social and environmental justice in this and any other part of the world.

The previous government weren't exactly angels either...

While Ravalomanana may have been democratically elected, he was deeply unpopular by the time he was deposed. Part of the reason behind his unpopularity was that he contracted out 1.3 million hectares of prime agriculutral lands to Daewoo Logistics (one of the successor firms to the former giant Daewoo conglomerate), which specialises in transport and energy and has been busy acquiring lands to grow oil palm and corn, presumably for ethanol production.

The military-backed Rajoelina government promptly cancelled the deal with Daewoo, earning some brownie points (and sending Daewoo looking for and finding land in Indonesia). This of course doesn't absolve him of other shady dealings nor of being, after all, a coup leader, but it is too easy to blame him for everything that's gone awry when the previous government were equal if not better at wheeling and dealing. The article cites US sanctions and investor flight as inherently negative consequences even though one is a symptom of a struggle between picking your overlord (US or France) and the second is maybe desirable considering said investors wanted to turn half of Madagascar into a biofuel factory farm. Whether or not Rajoelina actually is part of the loose network referred to as Françafrique/Mafiafrique is also a question, considering his relationship with (French foreign minister) Kouchner is strained at best (that said, Kouchner is particularly inept at doing any job, so the strained relationship might be a personal issue, not a sign of fissure in Françafrique).

In the end i agree very much with the final paragraph: "Without taking sides in the dispute in governance, they advocate for community level democracy to expand." Exactly. The dispute in governance we are seeing is between one devil and the next, between subjugation to traditional capital (from colonial metropole France) or new capital (from the US, China, the gulf states, or southeast asia), between selling out to tar sands or selling out to biofuels, etc. Community-level sovereignty over land is the only way forward if we are to see social and environmental justice in this and any other part of the world.

Agreed...

The point was NOT to lionize Ravalomanana. The act, as you describe earning "brownie" points, of telling Daewoo off was an exceptionally good thing, no matter what the real reasons behind that were. However, to discount the difference between the way "average" people live their lives since the coup and before the coup would be a grand mistake. I recall only a conversation, so take it only at that level.

"What was life like back in the era of the so-called socialist government?"

"Well, we were dirt poor, and had very little. No one went home at night with nothing, and everyone had enough to eat. That has not been the same since."

"Ravalomanana?"

"We thought we were suffering then, as we were often hungry and so on. But since the coup, now we know suffering. Before the coup, there were not all these people on the streets selling things [referring to the people who wander up and down congested traffic, holding calculators, tote bags and so forth] the way they are now. People now are desperate and things are much worse," it was explained to me. I'm paraphrasing from memory. And I have no issues with thinking the worst of the corrupt Ravalomanana regime. I hope the article above does not make it out to be that I wanted to see the re-ascension to power of a corrupt pro-US government. I certainly do not. The facts as people are lving them are that the current goverment, because of the end of international relations on so many levels *and* being a very pro free market/let imperialism in to take everything government, has made life harder than anyone has ever experienced before. Factor in that coups tend to make frightened tourists stay away and the picture gets worse. This is where the massive destruction of the rosewood happens. This is where the massive expansion of the tourist sex trade happens. This is where Rajoelina is a simple little wanna be autocrat.

I believe in the populist response to his denial of Daewoo. I think that this may even have international consequences, at least so far as pushing back on things like REDD as well as biofuel mass farming is concerned. But as you agreed, the question is not one faction of pro-imperialist military/corrupt governments vs. the other. It's about the possibility of the whole population to be involved in the process, which has never existed in this magical place. It must, and the truth of the Rajoelina governments toadying for France/Total is a start in getting there.

 

Thoughts...

 

 

 

 

Need some real evidence....

I've lived and worked in Madagascar for most of the past 7 years including a year (2007-2008) at the Madagascar Oil Tsimiroro exploration site. I've spent time in Morafenobe and have seen the Bemolanga region before Total bought into the blocks. I can tell you without equivocation that Madagascar Oil is a small time operation that carries no weight outside it's efforts to wheel and deal in Madagascar's hydrocarbon futures. They have no other business anywhere in the world. The fact that their offices are presently located in Houston is no indication that they are in any way a part of a power struggle between the US and France for the resources of Madgascar. It's an international hybrid that is not a real American company.

I've read about  "rumours of rumours" concerning Total being involved with the Rajoelina coup d' etat in 2009 but have not seen any evidence to support the theory.  Madagascar is a country alive with superstition and rumor.  Be more specific -  offer some details. Bring to the table some convincing evidence that a company the size, weight and reach of Total, which already has a major investment in Madagascar, would risk their existing operations by destabilizing Madagascar through supporting a coup d' etat fronted by a 34 year old ex-disc jockey and his cohorts. Honestly, without evidence this theory begs reason. 

As far as devastation is concerned, you can count on it if the Bemolanga fields are ever brought into production.  Bemolanga is a Sakalava word that translates to "bitumen".  Total (or whoever might buy the rights from them in the future) will be mining asphalt (not to be confused with "oil") in a country with, as you put it, zero infrastructure to support production or transport.This would be a high risk venture in the most politically stabile environment.

There are local interests with enough money and influence - and less to risk - who would have been eager to support a coup.This is the way Madagascar politics work. I doubt it's the way Total does business.

I will reply with quotes and

I will reply with quotes and follow up remarks:

"I can tell you without equivocation that Madagascar Oil is a small time operation that carries no weight outside it's efforts to wheel and deal in Madagascar's hydrocarbon futures. They have no other business anywhere in the world. The fact that their offices are presently located in Houston is no indication that they are in any way a part of a power struggle between the US and France for the resources of Madgascar. It's an international hybrid that is not a real American company."

I do not dispute your point at all. Madagascar Oil could not even begin to contemplate production without farming out to Total. That was why they did so. My general point is two fold: One, they are small and Rajoelina's government can pick on them with impunity, as you say. Two, They are American, and that feeds right into the whole (I'll call it backlash) against the Ravalomanana governments streamlining of US instead of French colonization.

Then:

"I've read about  "rumours of rumours" concerning Total being involved with the Rajoelina coup d' etat in 2009 but have not seen any evidence to support the theory.  Madagascar is a country alive with superstition and rumor.  Be more specific -  offer some details. Bring to the table some convincing evidence that a company the size, weight and reach of Total, which already has a major investment in Madagascar, would risk their existing operations by destabilizing Madagascar through supporting a coup d' etat fronted by a 34 year old ex-disc jockey and his cohorts. Honestly, without evidence this theory begs reason."

The investment by Total happened only a few months before Rajoelina started his bizarre street theatre that culminated in the coup. This was not risk, but rather risk management. Getting rid of an anti-French government is a great idea for Total, and it sure as Hell is clear across the entire continent that France continues to see Africa as their backyard, in country after country.

There is no hard evidence that I have seen to document the involvement of Total in the coup. What does exist, however, is that *only* Madagascar Oil's 40% stake in Bemolanga has not been put under pressure. Everything else they have a license to has. Total is not exactly brimming with corporate responsibility anywhere, they are trying to do similar projects in Morocco to this one, and they run the largest "SagD" tar sands project in the world, in Venezuela with virtually no scrutiny. 300 000 barrrels a day. Further, the deposit in Bemolanga, combined with the Tsimiroro field, is the largest such deposit in Southeastern Africa (if one considers the Malagasy African). Combine all of this with what the Ravalomanana government did to go the US route-- even making English an official language (as an English speaker who was walking about in many places in the country, making it an official language is just plain diplomatic posturing and "sending a message") after Malagasy and French it is not really that hard to believe at all. When the MO contracts are taken away from them, Total may indeed have a monopoly in short order. As I mentioned, they run the largest SagD operation in the world already and could easily overtake Tsimiroro-- which has beeen basically derelict since the coup, and Total in Bemolanga is not.

"As far as devastation is concerned, you can count on it if the Bemolanga fields are ever brought into production.  Bemolanga is a Sakalava word that translates to "bitumen".  Total (or whoever might buy the rights from them in the future) will be mining asphalt (not to be confused with "oil") in a country with, as you put it, zero infrastructure to support production or transport.This would be a high risk venture in the most politically stabile environment."

Apparently according to local contacts I was able to make, the plan is (wait for this!) to ship the diluted bitumen through the Mozambican Channel via tanker, around the southern cone of Africa, all the way up to the Gulf of Mexico to refine the bitumen there into 'oil' in refineries already refurbished for such due to pipelines both constructed and planned from the same type of fields in Canada. But the political risks are blunted by the lack of similar sized reserves elsewhere in the world and the ridiculously low royalty, environmental regulation and labour costs on a relative scale.

"There are local interests with enough money and influence - and less to risk - who would have been eager to support a coup.This is the way Madagascar politics work. I doubt it's the way Total does business."

All I can say is they are one of the largest energy companies in the world, and a coup led by such forces is not new for Africa, or anywhere else for that matter. From Iran to Venezuela, often this is what drives politics.

 

 

 

Politics in Madagascar

The coup of 2009 was not the first in Madagascar's history unless you consider assassination to be something else. Post-colonial political history in Madagascar is a continuum of upheaval, turmoil and violence of one sort or another. Pre-colonial government was industrial strength corruption and tyranny. The newest regime may or may not be the genetic descendants of the Monarchy and the andafi-avaratra strongmen of the 19th century, but they are without question their cultural offspring. They are the Tana Merina elite and they didn’t need Total to help them remove an outsider. Likewise, Total didn’t need a coup d’ etat to execute the project in Bemolanga.

Without clear evidence, weaving threads of Total’s lack of concern for environmental and social issues together with rumors of their involvement in political intrigue weakens the fabric of your story.

and one last point...

you wrote:

 

"There are local interests with enough money and influence - and less to risk - who would have been eager to support a coup.This is the way Madagascar politics work. I doubt it's the way Total does business."

It is important to note that the coup of 09 was the first coup in Madagascar's history. They don't have the same history of coup, counter coup that other African states have endured. Since 1961 the closest thing to a coup before Rajoelina came in was the seizure of power by the Communists in the 1970's.

 

Three things: 1- I'm not sure

Three things:

1- I'm not sure if the first commenter was not happy because of "the town of debauchery" reference to Canada or the one in Morafenobe. My parents are both from Morondava, and my extended family lives throughout the western part of Madagascar. I'd say that the author is correct about the word "debauchery" for Morafenobe; sure it's shameful but truth to be said, that description is accurate. 

2- "Ravalomanana was deeply unpopular by the time he was deposed": You are entitled to your opinion so I take that as you own opinion not the fact. Ravalomanana was really popular even in the capital city (my opinion); the situation was confusing for weeks before he was forced to resign by the military. In my opinion, the whining portion of urban population hates him for all the things described by local media, without having a full understanding on the real issue whatsoever (This is documented by France 24 and put on the air about couple months ago) 

I was very critical to the issue of land grab. I was one of the people who forced a local news paper to put this on from page. I interviewed three of my friends who had direct link to both Daewoo and the government including the personal advisor of the planing minister and two land explorers hired by Daewoo. I am comfortable to say that there has never been a deal (yet) and the papers presented in public by the opposition were all authorization for exploration documents. Aside from the debate over pro and cons of leasing land (we don't have laws that allow them to buy land) to foreign investors, (I think) a deal would never reach 1/5 of the 1.3 million ha.

3- "Community-level sovereignty over land is the only way forward if we are to see social and environmental justice in this and any other part of the world". Give me a working and/or successful model and I am with you 100%. Please take into consideration that in many places in Madagascar less than 1/3 of population is educated at an elementary level.

If you don't like em, do a coup!

Shucks!  We missed our chance to do a military coup d'etat to get rid of Bush!  He was very unpopular toward the end of his mandate.  Who needs democracy?  Certainly not in Africa!  The French even gave diplomatic protection to Rajoelina while he was doing his coup.  The americans supported the provision of diplomatic protection and did manoeuvers to make sure Ravalomanana did not come back.  So what if Ravalomanana was democratically elected.  France and the US did not like him.

You need some real evidence...

I've lived and worked in Madagascar for most of the past 7 years including a year (2007-2008) at the Madagascar Oil Tsimiroro exploration site. I've spent time in Morafenobe and have seen the Bemolanga region before Total bought into the blocks. I can tell you without equivocation that Madagascar Oil is a small time operation that carries no weight outside it's efforts to wheel and deal in Madagascar's hydrocarbon futures. They have no other business anywhere in the world. The fact that their offices are presently located in Houston is no indication that they are in any way a part of a power struggle between the US and France for the resources of Madgascar. It's an international hybrid that is not a real American company.

I've read about  "rumours of rumours" concerning Total being involved with the Rajoelina coup d' etat in 2009 but have not seen any evidence to support the theory.  Madagascar is a country alive with superstition and rumor.  Be more specific -  offer some details. Bring to the table some convincing evidence that a company the size, weight and reach of Total, which already has a major investment in Madagascar, would risk their existing operations by destabilizing Madagascar through supporting a coup d' etat fronted by a 34 year old ex-disc jockey and his cohorts. Honestly, without evidence this theory begs reason. 

As far as devastation is concerned, you can count on it if the Bemolanga fields are ever brought into production.  Bemolanga is a Sakalava word that translates to "bitumen".  Total, or whoever might buy the rights from them in the future, will be mining asphalt (not to be confused with "oil") in a country with, as you put it, zero infrastructure to support production or transport. This would be a high risk venture in the most politically stabile environment.

There are local interests with enough money and influence - and less to risk - who would have been eager to support a coup.This is the way Malagasy operate, I doubt it's the way Total does business.

I am not sure why my comment

I am not sure why my comment has never been posted so I'll try another one shorter.

1- The land grab by Daewoo logistics never really happen; it was under the exploration phase which they stopped after Ravalomanana left the power. Daewoo logistics is still present in Madagascar, they received 2 contracts by Rajoelina's Administration on energy (in Moramanga and Antsirabe). I am not sure Rajoelina's gov. really denied Daewoo...your opinion.

2-   Rajoelina's gov. is auditing Madagascar Oil (Total is the operator of the joint venture by 60% of share on Bemolanga) and planing to cede this block to Chinese consortium. May be this is a better deal than 1%...

3- Pushing back on REDD? I think not. Several days ago Rajoelina's team presented REDD+ document in Gabon but both GTZ and Swiss gov. ridiculed it by saying that no one will pay for this REDD project.

4- "Community-level sovereignty over land is the only way forward if we are to see social and environmental justice in this and any other part of the world." In the ideal world yes, (may be back 100 years ago or 200 years ago) I am very skeptical about this with the highly globalizing world. Do you know that there are currently more that 1000 community based natural resources managements in Madagascar? 

Comments

Hi,

All comments by non-members are held for moderation.

thanks for your understanding.

 

@ Malagasy anonymous you

@ Malagasy anonymous

you bring up good points.

1) i guess when you're about to make a coup and you run a media conglomerate, you could make wide-eyed kittens seem deeply unpopular. you are right, Ravalomana's popularity or lack thereof is a depends-who-you-ask kinda thing, particularly given the politically charged atmosphere preceding the coup.

2) as for Daewoo, they may have gotten two energy contracts but land is another, maybe more thorny issue. i do think that Rajoelina put the brakes on that deal, even if it was only in the exploration phase (thanks for the clarification on that, i was unaware that it was only exploratory).

3) for community-level food/land sovereignty, i cannot give you a perfect model. there's people working on different facets of food sovereignty all over the world but, as always, these projects always exist within a capitalist system. i'm on the lookout for new models and new ideas - the food sovereignty movement is always full of innovation. you have every reason to be skeptical regarding these models, i understand that. it definitely looks like an "if you can't beat them, join them" situation but i don't think we're just there yet. with the economic crisis (unfolding and upcoming), conflicts over land and natural ressources will only increase. i'm still of the opinion that globalisation of pillage is something that needs to be resisted and that community-based efforts are the way, coupled with national or international-level mechanisms to protect them from the dispossesive power of capital (yeah, i know, i sound like a dweeb).

4) i'm not familiar with Madagascar's 1000+ community-based natural resource management initiatives. do you have some documentation that you could recommend on that? i would love to take a look.


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