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Riches under rice in alleged Madagascar land grab

Nadia Raonimanalina and Will Fitzgibbon

2014-01-08, Issue 660

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/90078

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A Chinese company in Madagascar, with strong links to the government, is accused of unlawfully acquiring land, blighting the environment and leaving farmers destitute

When a Chinese businessman first approached Malagasy farmer Jean Manantsoa, 47, in April last year with an offer to lease his family rice fields, Jean had no idea of the untapped pockets of potential natural wealth beneath.

“It was a surprise that there was gas beneath my land,” Jean says, who now sells meat to support his wife and six children, in his commune of Mahaboboka, a sandy, flat expanse in Madagascar’s arid southwest.

Feeling pressured by the representative of the company, Madagascar Southern Petroleum Company (MSPC), Jean signed an open-ended lease for five million Malagasy ariary a year (£1,420). He received the first year’s payment but nothing this year even eight months after the 1 April deadline.

Jean now claims his paddies are ruined; a metal drilling bore and concrete slab sits on his rice field and the surrounding brown earth is churned into dry clods.

An investigation by the Forum for African Investigative Reporting (FAIR has found a Chinese company in Madagascar, with strong links to the government, is accused of unlawfully acquiring land, blighting the environment and leaving farmers destitute.

In previously unpublished documents, Madagascar’s National Environment Office, the ONE, slams MSPC, owned by one of China and Madagascar’s most powerful mining billionaires, Dr Hui Chi Ming.

Dr Hui is currently Madagascar’s consul in Hong Kong and advises the prime minister and president on economic and Asian affairs.

The Prime Minister’s office did not comment.

“He’s the top of the top”, says one Malagasy official who dined at Dr Hui’s Hong Kong residence close to when the philanthropist and billionaire appeared on Forbes’s 2009 “400 Richest Chinese List” with an estimated wealth of $815 million.

Dr Hui’s MSPC is a subsidiary of Hoifu Energy Limited, a multi-service company based in the 38-storey Shun Tak Centre on Hong Kong’s waterfront. It recently announced plans to increase profits through growing “the portion of oil and gas businesses”.

Neil Bush, the 58 year-old brother of former U.S. president George W. Bush, is one of eight directors.

The accusation against MSPC comes at an important political moment in Madagascar.

On 20 December, Malagasies vote in the final round of a long-awaited presidential election. Four years after a military-backed coup that installed former DJ Andry Rajoelina in power, locals hope for a reversal in the country’s slide into poverty that now sees more than 20 million of the country’s 22 million people live in poverty, 10 percentage points higher than when the crisis began, according to the World Bank.

The elections will decide who oversees the granting of nearly 250 potentially lucrative offshore oil and gas licenses, placing the management of Madagascar’s extensive natural resources in the spotlight.

Madagascar is a resource-rich country where sapphires could once be plucked from the topsoil. But the island’s oil and gas wealth has been largely unexplored and extractive industries made up just 0.53% of GDP in 2011, the last assessed year by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

At the turn of the century, officials granted 20 onshore blocks on the country’s west coast to a handful of Chinese, British, Australian, American, Indian and Malagasy companies.

Among them was MSPC, which scooped up a 9,260 square kilometer plot — larger than Devon and Cornwall combined — known as Block 3112.

Eight years on, Block 3112 is promising and should start producing gas in 2017, according to Hery Zaka Razafindrakoto, the deputy head of petroleum at Madagascar’s oil and gas regulator, OMNIS.

But since July 2012, the ONE has visited MSPC’s Mahaboboka site and questioned the company about what the government regulator identified as “grave failures committed by MSPC with regard to environmental legislation in force.”

One experienced government official says: “The worksite, from an environmental perspective, was a dump. It was in the worst condition that I had ever seen.”

The local mayor believes up to 17 Mahaboboka villagers have leased or sold land to MSPC.

After months of investigating, an ONE committee delivered a rare “negative opinion” on MSPC’s compliance in light of “repeated serious failings”. On 19 September 2013, MSPC received a first warning, giving the company 30 days to repair environmental damage and to resolve the land disputes.

“The Chinese lied to the villagers,” says Mahababoboka’s Mayor Emile Rakotondravelo from his second-floor office, a concrete building where broken green lino covers the floor.

“The company said that I had already agreed to sign the contracts,” something the mayor denies. Without the mayor’s consent and signatures, the contracts are invalid under Malagasy law.

“I told them I wanted to legalise the contract before the Mayor,” says Jean. “But the company said they had already had discussions with the mayor and gotten his approval.”

Accusations of land grabbing in Madagascar are not new. But the ONE’s response to MSPC is rare, according to insiders, reflecting the increased attention to foreign ownership of the country’s natural resources.

“I will pay particular attention to [Chinese companies’] impact on the common good,” Dr Jean-Louis Robinson, the leading presidential candidate with over 21% of first round presidential votes. “I will monitor their impact on national sovereignty,” Dr Robinson told FAIR in response to learning of the MSPC affair, adding that the contract would have to be revised if the company had broken national laws.

“Land and resource grabbing in Madagascar is far from experiencing a downward trend,” says Giulia Franchi, land campaigner with the Italian NGO Re:common.

“Whether this happens through lease or sale contracts, the actual results for local communities is the same: their land is being grabbed and they lose any possibility to sustain themselves,” Franchi says.

The ONE accuses MSPC of purchasing land in contravention of MSPC’s contract with the Malagasy State and in violation of the country’s Petrol Code.

Despite MSPC submitting a document confirming it owns no land in the Mahaboboka area, the committee concluded that “the questions of land acquisition are not entirely resolved because it has been explained numerous times that the manner in which the company acquired land was done indirectly, through another company.”

“Of course there is a link [between MSPC and the land purchase],” says ONE’s Randriamiarana, who is overseeing an investigation into the land purchase. “They cannot work there if there isn’t some kind of link,” he says, although he does not think the purchase was approved at senior levels.

“The Chinese bought land through a female employee,” claims another official with detailed knowledge of the case.

Land registry documents show the purchaser of 74.48 acres and 2.1 hectares at Ankida is Ms Brigitte Monique Andrianifahanana, manager of Gold (Grand Investment Limited). Dr Hui holds 21.98% of shares in a company that last year increased its stake in Gold Grand to 40%.

Ms Andrainifahanana is an employee of Dr Hui’s company Banque Industrielle et Comerciale de Madagascar although she denies any link between Dr Hui and her purchase.

Hoifu denies that the push for greater oil and gas profits is behind MSPC’s altercations with Malagasy authorities.

MSPC has promised improvements, says Heritiana Radriamiarana, the Director of Environmental Evaluation at the ONE.

But MSPC’s Director General, Li Yin, denies there are problems and rejects the ONE’s allegations.

“All our group’s activities in Madagascar, whether in the field of oil and gas exploration, distribution or in others, are those regulated by laws and permitted by conventions and agreements in which the national and local governments are co-signatories and partners,” Hoifu said in a statement.

“No controversial issues with the Government have ever come up,” Hoifu said, adding that the director of Gold is “a very close business partner” who is “free, independent and can acquire real properties and chattels as it is allowed by the national and local laws and customs of Madagascar.”

“Non obstante our group’s heavy investment in Madagascar, neither our group nor its directors has drawn monetary benefits from the group’s activities,” says Hoifu.

But neither has Jean seen the monetary benefits of his lease.

“Before we thought this was a wonderful thing,” says Jean Manantsoa, remembering when he was first told of the riches beneath his rice.

“But since I gave it to the Chinese it has been a disaster.”

* This article was first published by Africa Sentinel

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READERS' COMMENTS

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins

 

AFRICAN AMERICA IS AT WAR

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICA

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICANS

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

AMERICA'S RACISTS HAVE INFILTRATED AMERICAN POLICE FORCES TO WAGE A RACE WAR AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

THE BLACK RACE IS AT WAR

FIRST WORLD WAR:  THE APPROXIMATELY 6,000 YEAR WORLD WAR ON AFRICA AND THE BLACK RACE

Original Post

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  My brotha  it's gonna take SELF-IDENTITY and SELF-LOVE.  And acceptance of other folks point of view outside of the usual "masters" propaganda regarding the history of slavery in the continent of Africa.  I remember watching the movie Sarafina starring Whoopi Goldberg. There were two pivotal  scenes:  (1) When Whoopi began teaching the real story of her [I think it was South Africa] country's subjugation by Europeans to her students and (2) When the powers that be tossed her off a building for telling that story.  

 

We need to be OPENED to the TRUTH...and variations of the truth cuz no two African countries experienced the same type of HORROR.  And somewhere in all that social destruction over the last 4 or 5 thousand years lies....the CORE truth that connects each African nation with the secret of their dismantlement.  But if you have the "oppressor" telling their story of heroic bullshyte over and over, generation to generation, people begin to believe it and the REAL truth become hostage and imprisoned for what now seems like ions and ions.  Sprinkle that with [kinda graphic now] FGM and castration-which is removing the base of forming continual life naturally, give it a little fake ceremony[these ARE still people who massa knows need some form of social relief] and whoola!  Bloody slave tactic now called tradition becomes culture and [real] TRUTH[about how all this came to the land] becomes myth.  And anyone who thinks OUTSIDE of that...are either ostracized or accused of witchcraft[which is a pagan European belief system introduced into Africa].   

 

This method is DONE all over the world where there are people of color.  From Australia to Africa to South America to North America to the Islands.  I remember going to Hawaii and was STUNNED absolutely STUNNED to see black people as a part of the "secret" Hawaiian culture prior to European contact.  It is not openly said but the Hawaiians in their own way keep that knowledge of black ancestors out there for all to see so that each person can come to their own conclusions cuz what happened there again happened everywhere there are people of color.

 

So until blackfolks put their big folks pants/panties on?  And stop fighting each other?  And killin each other?  And stop demeaning and belittling each other?  And stop sabotaging any effort for progress for our people?  And realize that those are just slave distractions....we will continue to be zombies i.e. the walking dead. Cuz massa NEVER ever was our savior! The truth is we were his.  But!

Last edited by Kocolicious
Originally Posted by Kocolicious:

  My brotha  it's gonna take SELF-IDENTITY and SELF-LOVE.  

 

So until blackfolks put their big folks pants/panties on?  And stop fighting each other?  And killin each other?  And stop demeaning and belittling each other?  And stop sabotaging any effort for progress for our people?  And realize that those are just slave distractions....we will continue to be zombies i.e. the walking dead. Cuz massa NEVER ever was our savior! The truth is we were his.  But!

 

 

 

(1) Stop name-calling one another.
(2) Stop cursing at one another.

(3) Stop squabbling with one another.
(4) Stop gossiping about one another.
(5) Stop snitching on one another.
(6) Stop being discourteous and disrespectful towards one another.
(7) Stop robbing one another.
(8) Stop stealing from one another.
(9) Stop fighting one another.
(10) Stop killing one another.
(11) Stop using and selling drugs to one another.
(12) Stop throwing trash and dirt on the streets and in places where Black people live, work and learn.” 

 

--

Frances Cress Welsing - 

The Isis Papers

 

Originally Posted by Kocolicious:

  My brotha  it's gonna take SELF-IDENTITY and SELF-LOVE.  And acceptance of other folks point of view outside of the usual "masters" propaganda regarding the history of slavery in the continent of Africa.  I remember watching the movie Sarafina starring Whoopi Goldberg. There were two pivotal  scenes:  (1) When Whoopi began teaching the real story of her [I think it was South Africa] country's subjugation by Europeans to her students and (2) When the powers that be tossed her off a building for telling that story.  

 

 

I'm a sistah, not a brotha. 

 

It's a shame that even black Africans have forgotten their true history. It is like they have been placed under a spell. I don't even think there are any griots alive now in Africa. 

 

The entire (true) history of the world is hidden and falsified. Blacks were not just confined to Africa. The ancient 'Chinese,' 'Japanese,' and 'Greeks' were even black. The world according to whites classify a black person as having dark skin, a broad nose, thick lips, and kinky hair. So what are dark skinned (east) Indians called? Some of them are just as dark (if not darker) than the darkest black African. Yet, they have been classified (by white anthropologists, of course) as Caucasian. Seriously? Yet, these same anthropologists would classify a light-skinned person with light colored (tightly curled) hair, light eyes, and European facial features as black. That's how crazy-hypocritical their 'science' is! What race are dark skinned Indians of the Americas and dark skinned Thai? Has it not occurred to them (white so-called scientists) that all dark skinned people on this planet are one race: Black? We are the same but are of different tribes! Look at the tribes of sub-Saharan Africa. They don't even look the same. We have all been hoodwinked! We should all be united as one, not divided by superficial or tribal differences!

 

The Africa They Never Show You:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826tpNNrCF0

 

Videos of A Few Tribes (tried to avoid the ones that were exploitative):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfsIBo0CD8Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsLILZwHENQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...t=PL072193164ACBD76A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52ELI1Vumdc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-0Log-170o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQg0jMN2B1k

 

Yeah. Um. Right. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncrQpzh6I9U

 

Doesn't she look like some sisters you know? Look at the broad nose and chocolate skin tone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6KG6B1b9Bs

 

East Indians have to remind themselves that black is beautiful:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indep...139181353151512.html

 

Some dark skinned people of India:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqd9YSv9SUY

 

More examples of how white supremacy has permeated all parts of the world:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/st...oesnt-make-you-ugly/

 

What Native Americans looked like before race mixing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxGX7Bmon5I

 

 

The ancient Olmecs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRJltKHVWug

 

The Original Chinese:

http://www.kulturekritic.com/2...-people-china-black/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3IzMvBeOLk

 

More on what the earliest Asians looked like with images of ancient Greeks thrown in:

http://realhistoryww.com/world.../ancient/China_2.htm

http://www.city-data.com/forum...zations-101-a-9.html

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

 

We need to WAKE UP.

Sista Earth and Sky wrote:I'm a sistah, not a brotha. 

 

My apologies my sista.  I should have looked at your avatar but didn't.  My mistake.  Please forgive me,  

 

The entire (true) history of the world is hidden and falsified. Blacks were not just confined to Africa. The ancient 'Chinese,' 'Japanese,' and 'Greeks' were even black. The world according to whites classify a black person as having dark skin, a broad nose, thick lips, and kinky hair. So what are dark skinned (east) Indians called? Some of them are just as dark (if not darker) than the darkest black African. Yet, they have been classified (by white anthropologists, of course) as Caucasian.Seriously? Yet, these same anthropologists would classify a light-skinned person with light colored (tightly curled) hair, light eyes, and European facial features as black. That's how crazy-hypocritical their 'science' is! What race are dark skinned Indians of the Americas and dark skinned Thai? Has it not occurred to them (white so-called scientists) that all dark skinned people on this planet are one race: Black? We are the same but are of differenttribes! Look at the tribes of sub-Saharan Africa. They don't even look the same. We have all been hoodwinked!We should all be united as one, not divided by superficial or tribal differences!

 

I totally agree with every thing you've said.  Absolutely.  But!  .  

 

 

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