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Salt producers are destroying mangroves and human rights

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Reconstruction of the Rovan'Antananarivo (Antananarivo Palace) : opacity and suspicion of favoritism

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Human procuring and trade : a network of corrupt people between Mauritius and Madagascar

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Menabe small-scale fishermen protest against the use of non-regulatory equipment

Reconstruction of the Rovan'Antananarivo (Antananarivo Palace) : opacity and suspicion of favoritism

Abuse of power and violence : omerta, sustaining sexual corruption

Andavakimenarana, sacrified by illicit occupation and illegal appropriation

Small fishermen, at the mercy of the big operators

Boeny : a disrupted distribution of Tosika Fameno aid

Covid-19 in DIANA Region : a battle with no means !

Human procuring and trade : a network of corrupt people between Mauritius and Madagascar

View more news.

Andavakimenarana, sacrified by illicit occupation and illegal appropriation

The rural commune of Andovoranto, about 16 km away from Brickaville, is home to the Andavakimenarana or Andavakimena forest: 1,400 Ha, categorized as " Classified Forest " during the first Republic. With about thirty endemic species of flora and fauna, Andavikimena is the last primary forest along the coastline, destroyed by massive deforestation since the 1980s. A forest that is hiding a jungle of corruption.

By Tiana Andria

The order N°1562 MAP/FOR on the classification of the Andavakimenarana forest has not been revoked. It remains a classified forest, forbidden to clearing, cultivation and burning, as stipulated in Article 2 of the order. Thanks to this status, this forest was preserved for a while until the Second Republic administration issued an exploitation permit to supply Toamasina with wood and charcoal. Fifteen ton canoes leave from this forest and drift on the Pangalanes to reach Toamasina. According to Tangalamena Patrick Zakariasy’s explanations in his complaint dated August 08, 2016, although this supply contract was terminated, this exploitation continues without any authority intervening.

In the 1990s, an authorization granted to Homéopharma for the installation of alambics inside this forest led to the dismissal of the Minister of the Environment of the time, as well as the transfer of officials at the level of the provincial direction of Water and Forests. This was the last sanction issued by the authorities concerning the illegal exploitation of Andavakimena.

A tenant who does not pay his rebates

In 1998, a 50-year lease management agreement was signed between the General Direction of Water and Forests and the company Madagascar Liberté, headquartered at Villa Melda- Rue François de Malry, plot 32/11 Toamasina 501, represented by Jean Laurent Raherison and Colonel Dauphin Masondahy. This agreement permits the company Madagascar Liberté to exploit for tourism purposes an area of 97 ha including Lake Andobobe for a fish farming project. The counterparty is an annual rent of MGA 400,000 payable in two half-yearly payments of MGA 200,000. Non-payment of this fee and abuse of use are the conditions for termination, according to the agreement (art. 6).  “The tenant has never paid his dues since the signing of the contract to this day. He has not even paid his rebates to the Commune. And yet the contract has never been terminated,” the current Mayor of Andovoranto Talata Jean Baptiste said. This information was confirmed by Tezena Lionel Armando, Regional Director of Environment and Sustainable Development (Directeur Régionale de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable – DREDD) of Atsinanana Region.

When Colonel Dauphin Masondahy fell ill, he entrusted the management of these 97 hectares to his brother Rabe Jean Victor. The latter and his family settled in the area in 2016 and now manage the lake of Andobobe, the forest delimited by the 97 Ha as well as the bungalows built within the forest itself. The legitimacy of this transfer of management between the two brothers raises questions, because Rabe Jean Victor is not at all mentioned in the agreement. Moreover, no article of the contract provides for this case.

The members of the Maitsoanala grassroots community, in charge of managing 342 hectares out of the 1,400 hectares of classified forest, are requesting the restitution of Lake Andobobe’s management. “We will review the terms of this management lease agreement,” DREDD Tezena Lionel Armando promised, on the sidelines of the management transfer between the DREDD and the VOIs (Vondron’Olona Ifotony or grass-roots community) in Andavakimena on August 27, 2021, without mentioning whether the current management by Rabe Jean Victor is legal or not. For the Tangalamena Patrick Zakariasy, “the convention has no more reason to exist, its termination is imperative and unquestionable.”

Abuse and forgery

But Colonel Dauphin Masondahy, signatory of the contract, would have allowed himself some latitude: “He shared plots of land inside this forest to his high ranking peers like General Charles Rabotoarison and General Randrianazary,” the complaint filed by the tangalamena Zakariasy Patrick and no less a native of Andorovanto in 2016, reveals.

In addition, Colonel Dauphin Masondahy, while alive, appropriated a plot of land of 124.948 Ha according to a land certificate No. 30809-KT-0354 and another plot of 94.387 Ha according to the land certificate No. 30809-KT-0355; certificates granted after local recognition carried out on the same day of 24 September 2010. The total area in the name of Dauphin Masondahy is 219.335 Ha, which is well above the norms for the acquisition of a land certificate. On January 19, 2021, a note issued by the Director of Support to Decentralized Land Management, Tiana Richard Razafindrakotohary recalls the ministerial note N°364-12/VPDAT/SG/DGSF of August 14, 2014 prohibiting any issuance of land certificate for an area of more than 10 Ha. This same note orders that the records of land certificates issued before 2014 be inventoried and verified before the cancellation procedure. But apparently, the 219.335 Ha certified in the name of Dauphin Masondahy have not been verified, nor inventoried.

These land certificates were signed by the mayor of that time, Charles Victor Ranaivo, who remains missing to this day, with the complicity of the agent of the BIF (land office) on the spot. These lands are located inside Andavakimena and outside of the 97 Ha delimitation granted to Colonel Dauphin Masondahy.

The granting of a land certificate is based on the recognition of the occupant’s rights by the neighbors and the village assembly, and is granted only if there is no objection. The land must also have been developed for at least 15 years. “We have not been informed of this recognition. We were not even consulted during these requests for land certificates,” Roger Telolahy, one of the elders of the village of Andobo, fokontany Andavakimena, said. The granting of these two land certificates, like a hundred others, was operated illegally. “The forest of Andavakimena has never been declassified. So it keeps its specific status. For this reason, it is forbidden to practice activities in the forest. Hence, no development is authorized there, whatever it is, nor by anyone,” emphasizes José Mario Rakotovoavy, head of the legal department within the Atsinanana Region DREDD. He also added that “the Atsinanana DREDD was not informed of the existence of these land certificates until years later. This is an illegal act and we would never have given our agreement. Moreover, the requests were never received by the DREDD.

The DREDD Regional Director, Tezena Lionel Armando, corroborated the statements of his colleague: “Measures will be taken immediately against the illegal residents.”  The latter has also asked the current mayor of Andovoranto, Talata Jean Baptiste, to cancel the certificates which do not respect the legal procedures. “I don’t understand the DREDD’s attitude,” the mayor intervenes. “He is asking me to cancel the certificates according to the normal procedure, that is to say, he wants us to check whether the process of issuing these certificates has been respected. Why would we do that? This is special status land so we don’t need to check the process. Wouldn’t it be wise to request the cancellation of these land certificates from the court, referring to the order N°1562 MAP/FOR on the classification of the Andavakimenarana forest”, Andovoranto’s Chief Magistrate says.

The land law of 2005-019 of October 17, 2005, which refers to the granting of land certificates, does not govern protected areas, forests and lands with natural resources. They are governed by special legislation.

The land certificates issued by the former mayor Charles Victor Ranaivo are only illegal but their issuance was tainted by corruption. When checked at the Commune, these certificates are not sealed, others are not signed, some are neither sealed nor signed. Moreover, the seal used is not a dry seal, specific to the municipality. Several certificates were signed by Mayor Laro Maxime, which surprised the team of the current mayor.  “False certificates,” Mayor Talata Jean Baptiste noted.

These certificates on behalf of Mayor Laro Maxime were signed in February 2019, when he was no longer mayor, being himself a candidate for his own succession. It was his first deputy Claret Andriamampionona who ensured the interim.  On the certificates, we can read the name of the signatory who is none other than the mayor Laro Maxime but with two signatures that are different: one of them is not conform to the original.

95 out of 100 land certificates are not registered with the municipality

On the other hand, an applicant would have paid MGA 1,140,000 for a land certificate without a dry seal. However, the cost of a certificate as decided by the local counselors varies between MGA 36,000 and MGA 241,000 depending on the surface and the status of the land.

Of the 100 land certificates issued by the Commune, only five certificates were reported to the Commune. The revenues from the 95 certificates were not recorded in the Commune’s account book and were not deposited in the Commune’s own treasury. “The former Mayor Charles Victor Ranaivo would be involved in an act of swindling of several hundred million related to the sale of large areas of forest,” Patrick Zakariasy illustrates.

It is impossible to verify the issuance of these certificates, because the commune’s land register has disappeared. An observation made during the handover between the interim mayor Claret Andriamampionona and the incoming mayor Talata Jean Baptiste. The Municipality of Andovoranto only has the 2008 register, which only contains 99 certificate applications. And to cap it all, the dry seal of the Commune has disappeared. Without the intervention and donation of the Casef project, Andovoranto Commune would have functioned for a long time without a dry seal.

Illicit appropriations by high dignitaries

With no forestry control, illegal occupations, poaching and slash-and-burn cultivation have been practiced in the forest. There are even vanilla fields of more than 1,000 plants. We are informed that a prosecutor in Toamasina who comes from Andovoranto, operators, an official in the District of Brickaville, a current official in the Commune of Andovoranto and members of his family have acquired land in this forest, except for Colonel Dauphin Masondahy and the two generals. In the “green book” or management contract signed between the DREDD and the VOI Maitsoanala, the names of Ms. Gitah, Mr. Legros, Mr. Sosthène, and Mr. Richard are indeed cited as owners of land within this classified forest. Their land is used as a boundary for the 342 Ha managed by the VOI Maitsoanala.

“We have the impression that the administration supports these illegal land grabs,” our source regrets. “In December 2020, from the beginning of the clearing carried out by Mr. Legros, a report was submitted to the cantonment, and to the Direction General of Environmental Governance (Direction Générale de la Gouvernance Environnementale -DGGE). But until now nothing has been decided” she deplored. The former cantonment chief is no stranger to the allocation of these lands. “It is the forestry administration itself that encourages people to appropriate land inside the forest,” Patrick Zakariasy denounced in his statement of August 08, 2016.

When asked about the case, a source close to the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD) said that the central administration has already been informed of this situation. “The relevant departments are in consultation to take appropriate measures. As decentralization is effective within the MEDD, the DREDD is free and independent in its decisions regarding its district, without omitting to inform the MEDD,” our source who requested anonymity explains.

This source also claims that some VOI members are in the pay of politicians who use their influence to protect “their” acquisitions. Currently, the fokonolona (local community) and their mayor are in solidarity and call on the supervisory ministries to support them to preserve what is left of this coastal forest in the East.

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