2009.02.18: February 18, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Safety: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Pargee writes: We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Madagascar: Peace Corps Madagascar : Peace Corps Madagascar: Newest Stories: 2009.01.30: January 30, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Safety: Peace Corps Press Release: Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar Remain Safe: 2009.01.30: January 30, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Safety: Blogs - Madagascar: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Magnolia writes: Staying Safe in Madagascar : 2009.02.18: February 18, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Safety: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Pargee writes: We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village.

By Admin1 (admin) (141.157.67.67) on Thursday, March 12, 2009 - 8:48 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Pargee writes: We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village.

Peace Corps Volunteer Pargee writes: We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village.

The security officials for Peace Corps Madagascar took precautionary measures and chose to consolidate all of the volunteers in the country in "safe zones". We were taken to our training center about 60 kilometers outside the capital and held there for two weeks. We were completely safe at the rural training center and spent most of our days gardening, doing yoga, canoeing, playing volleyball, painting, drinking beer and having dance parties. It was a little like being in a retirement home, well, minus the booze and dancing. Yes, we live a very priveledged life as volunteers compared to our friends in our village. It was a little nerve racking because we were told that there was a possibility that we would have to evacuate the country and the program would be suspended, esssentially ending our Peace Corps service over a year early, and it seemed like each day the mood would change from "evacuation likely" to "we'll send you back to your village tomorrow". However, the security officers in Tana and Washington finally decided to let us go back to our sites, so they brought us to Tamatave yesterday and we will head back to our village tomorrow. They decided that the risk to volunteer's safety is minimal and it is very unlikely that anything would happen in our rural villages. A few volunteers in "hot spots" are not allowed to return to their sites and will probably be relocated to another region.

Peace Corps Volunteer Pargee writes: We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One president, two presidents, we're still residents

Greetings from Madagascar,

Caption: Madagascan soldiers on patrol in Antananarivo on January 29, 2009. The mayor of Madagascar's capital city, Andry Rajoelina, on Monday sought the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana in the wake of violent anti-government protests that left dozens dead. Photo: AFP/File/Richard Bouhet

Wishing you all a belated Happy Holidays and New Year. I hope everyone had a good time over the holidays with family and friends. To those of you I haven't talked to, Dan and I spent Christmas with some friends in Manompana and were visited by our friend and fellow volunteer Kathryn. We spent the whole day at the beach and then had a lobster dinner, not a bad Christmas, though we missed everyone, the snow and ravioli making at home.

I'm sure most of you haven't heard, but there has been quite a lot going on here in Madagascar over the last month. The president of the country, Marc Ravalomanana has become very unpopular with a large part of the population due to his policies, particularly regarding development contracts with foreign companies. For one, he has been brokering a deal with a Korean company that would give them a 99 year lease to half of the arable land in Madagascar for a palm oil/ corn plantation. The deal would bring huge revenue to the country and the company would be obligated to invest in the development of Madagascar (building roads, bridges, electricity/water projects, etc) however the deal is controversial and would displace a large number of poor farmers. The pres also spent 60 million dollars on a presidental plane, creatively called Air Force One, (although it could really just be called Air Force as this country has no Air Force to speak of) which is a questionable expenditure for one of the poorest countries in the world. So, the pres has some opponenets, namely the mayor of Antananarivo, who has been organizing protests in the capital and calling for the president's resignation. Two weeks ago, protests led to opportunistic looting in all of the major cities in the country and the president's personal businesses were targeted. He is the propriotor of the largest dairy and food distribution companies in Mad. and many of his shops were looted and then burned. Many people were killed in the mayhem, mostly by being trapped in the burning buildings. The national police did not respond, though it is still unclear exactly why..... rumor has it to avoid inciting further violence. The national radio headquarters(also owned by the pres) was also burned, though it is now functioning again. The looting continued for two days and many other shop owners were targeted, simply by people looking to gain something for themselves.

Calm was restored a few days later, though protests continued and there were several other incidents in some of the provincial capitals. The mayor of Tana called again for the pres to resign and volunteered himself to be the leader of a new transitional government. He later declared himself the president of Madagascar (even though he is only 34 and is not yet of age to assume the presidency) and has plans to create his own cabinet and install ministers. He has named several ministers and appointed a new mayor of Tana to fill his shoes. The president, however, also appointed a new mayor to succeed his rival and is not making any concessions. Therefore, we have, in a sense, two presidents, two cabinets and two mayors of Tana. The president seems to have more support than the mayor, though I believe this is mostly because he is the lesser of two evils for most people. The president was democratically elected and elections are not scheduled to be held until 2010, and he continues to act as president.

Last Saturday, the mayor of Tana held a rally and then proceeded to march with his supporters to the presidential palace which they planned to "overtake". The palace was guarded by the national police/military and the protestors were told not to proceed, so they sent a negotiator to try and reach some sort of agreement. What followed is a bit unclear and tainted by rumors, but apparently while negotiations were still underway, the guards opened fire on the crowd, killing over 50 people and wounding several hundred. Surprisingly, the days that followed were peaceful and focused on mourning the dead, rather than retaliating. There have been several rallies and demonstrations by both parties and all have remained peaceful. There has been some looting and burning in some of the provincial capitals, but the national police is acting and has thus far managed to maintain some order.

There is still no political solution, so the demonstrations will continue which creates a situation that has potential for violence. The majority of Malagasy people live in rural areas are completely unaffected by the unrest in the capital and continue to go about their daily lives, though the looting has caused some shortages and the prices of many staple goods like rice and oil has increased, making their already difficult lives even more of a struggle.

So, what does this mean for us? The security officials for Peace Corps Madagascar took precautionary measures and chose to consolidate all of the volunteers in the country in "safe zones". We were taken to our training center about 60 kilometers outside the capital and held there for two weeks. We were completely safe at the rural training center and spent most of our days gardening, doing yoga, canoeing, playing volleyball, painting, drinking beer and having dance parties. It was a little like being in a retirement home, well, minus the booze and dancing. Yes, we live a very priveledged life as volunteers compared to our friends in our village. It was a little nerve racking because we were told that there was a possibility that we would have to evacuate the country and the program would be suspended, esssentially ending our Peace Corps service over a year early, and it seemed like each day the mood would change from "evacuation likely" to "we'll send you back to your village tomorrow". However, the security officers in Tana and Washington finally decided to let us go back to our sites, so they brought us to Tamatave yesterday and we will head back to our village tomorrow. They decided that the risk to volunteer's safety is minimal and it is very unlikely that anything would happen in our rural villages. A few volunteers in "hot spots" are not allowed to return to their sites and will probably be relocated to another region. We have new security restrictions and will have to remain in more frequent contact with Peace Corps in Tana, and we have less freedom to travel at will, though we should still be able to live life as normal in our village. There is of course the possibility that a political solution will not be reached for some time and thus the possiblity of protests and violence remains which means that there is still a possibility of Peace Corps evacuating from Madagascar. We are perfectly safe though and will continue to remain on guard and be more careful in all situations. We hope that a peaceful solution will be reached soon and the people of this country will not suffer any unneccesasry violence. We will be in touch as we know more... please don't worry... we will be fine!!!!! Hope that all is well for everyone at home, we miss you all and are thinking of you.




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Headlines: February, 2009; Peace Corps Madagascar; Directory of Madagascar RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Madagascar RPCVs; Safety and Security of Volunteers





When this story was posted in March 2009, this was on the front page of PCOL:




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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Madagascar; Safety

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