In the wake of the 26th of June which marks the day Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, one cannot help but reminisce. Singing the anthem, raising the flag, lightening up lanterns and watching fireworks, these are the traditions to celebrate independence. A number of historical dates led to this momentous day. One of these memorable dates was the Malagasy uprising of 29 March 1947 when Malagasy nationalist known as the “Mouvement Democratique de la Renovation Malgache”, MDRM formed in 1946 with the ultimate objective of independence. The MDRM revolt against the French rule resulted in an estimate of 60 000 to 80 000 casualties, many say these numbers are an under-estimation and still today, stories of humiliating and barbaric killings of innocent Malagasy civilians remain a sensitive topic of conversation. Even so, Malagasy are aware that they suffered in the fight for the right to self-determination.
The Right to Determine our Destiny
In essence, the right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine its own destiny. According to this principle the people is empowered to choose its own political status and to determine its own form of economic, cultural and social development. Quoting, Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, a prominent author and practitioner in the field of international relations : "No other concept is as powerful, visceral, emotional, unruly, as steep in creating aspirations and hopes as self-determination." All peoples have the right to self-determination. This powerful concept was particularly significant for colonized nations, such as Madagascar around 1960s. This right to self-determination has been recognized in international law as a right of process belonging to peoples and not to states or governments.
Self-determination is not mere abstract theory as it is embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States, the Helsinki Final Act, the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and affirmed by the International Court of Justice in the Namibia case, the Western Sahara case, and the East Timor case. These demonstrate the universal recognition of the principle of self-determination as an integral part of human rights law which has a universal application.
In early 1960s, history books talk of a “spirit of political reconciliation” in Madagascar. Independence became a reality and Tsiranana, the first Malagasy President began a regime which maintained strong economic ties with France. A tie we never seem to let loose of as various Presidents succeeded Tsiranana.
The principle of self-determination provides for the Malagasy people to choose its political status and to determine its form of economic, cultural and social development. Theoretically, the core of the principle lies in the right of choice. In practice, however, the outcome of self-determination will affect the attitude of governments towards the actual claim. Indeed, fragile and weakened African nations, like Madagascar opted to maintain strong ties with the West post-colonial rule. This was not all too detrimental and may even have been necessary. Sadly, occasions and deals where nations like Madagascar benefited are rare, if they do, the Malagasy rarely see how these deals have improved their living conditions. Madagascar is scared with a no-win economic relationship with the West gravely threatening its natural resources thus its economic, political and social status.
Globalisation, Neocolonialism, Africa and Madagascar
Free spirited artist Imany sings the painful truth when she declares “Africa has the shape of a broken heart and the heart of a broken land”. She continues by painting an all too often African reality singing : “a land that fell from heaven straight to hell.” This is a perfect illustration of a continent blessed and cursed with its own riches. Take, the Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, it also gained independence from Belgium in 1960. Yet, at this very moment, fathers, mothers and children risk their lives in a land victim of continuous and ongoing conflict which already cost the lives of approximately 3 to 6 million lives.
When it comes to the enormous wealth in natural resources on the African continent, Madagascar is not lacking. Madagascar, shaped like an angel’s footprint has similarly been blessed and cursed with an abundance of mismanaged, exploited and plundered natural resources. Left to the common fate of African nations as one of the poorest countries in the World. Globalisation allows us to travel, to enjoy a wider variety of educational resources, the use of Internet and other technologies and awareness of pressing issues such as fight against HIV – AIDS. However, it also has some detrimental consequences that have significantly impacted the developing world. ‘Neocolonialism’ or ‘new-colonialism’ describes the re-colonisation of Africa through corporate financial arrangements backed up by Western countries, or perhaps dare it be said – coercions and bribes are extracting the wealth from the continent as opposed to guns during the era of colonialisation. Although the wealth of natural resources has the potential to help eradicate poverty, it does not take long to understand that this opportunity, impacted by globalisation, failed to materialize. Instead Madagascar, like the continent is degenerating.
At the same time, it is recognized that compliance with the right of self-determination is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural. Let us simply bear in mind some of the reality we live in and when the occasion presents itself to act upon it so as to better our lives we should not hesitate. Be it upon negotiating a “just” deal with another corporation or “refusing bribes” for the exploitation of our natural resources. As globalisation infiltrates further in our way of life, Madagascar and Malagasy must make more effort to keep up with the changes. In spite of the fact that we may be politically independent and questionably so economically, the 26th of June remains and should remain a day of celebration. Malagasy lives were lost in the past to affirm our self-determination and we should celebrate to honor those who fought for our independence.
Reporting from Brussels