Sunday , 23 June 2024
Nosy Be - The island of perfumes off the northwestern coast of Madagascar is one of the hot spots of the 2002 post-election crisis. The mere mention of the infamous Colonel Assolant Coutiti, currently in prison, still sends a chill through the spines of this island?s inhabitants.

Nosy Be: Yesterday?s doubts, tomorrow?s hope


Each and every day of the first six months of 2002 was a challenge for the island?s population. An islander notes, “Hardly a morning went by without a body washing ashore.” During the day, Coutiti, and his murderous gang tore through the city at high speed in their four-wheel drive vehicles, threatening the Indo-Pakistani residents, and the island?s officials before moving on to the mainland to continue their destructive ways.


One thing is for certain, 2002 left indelible scars on the island?s residents, especially the so-called “mpiavy”, native of other regions of Madagascar. Doubt, insecurity, and bewilderment set in. Today, the residents do not understand why the Malagasy Justice appears to be so lenient toward Coutiti. They wake up everyday, fearing that, once again, he could return, just as he did in 1991.


Since the crisis, tourism, one of the island?s leading economic sectors, has experienced a dramatic decline. In March, a handful of tourists crisscrossed the island. However, investors have left, abandoning the construction, or the restoration of their hotels. Alarmingly severe dilapidation reigns through Hell-Ville, the island?s capital city.


Fishing, the primary economic activity of the local population, is still primitive. An observer notes that the fishermen?s primary problem is lack of financing and training. Associations, and non-government organizations are teaching local fishermen how to manufacture nets. At sea, however, their small dugout canoes are not well suited to the length of the nets, and accidents occur frequently.

Unauthorized ships

Moreover, unauthorized Asian fishing boats operate within the Great Island?s territorial waters, violating established regulations governing mesh size, and net length. The underwater marine fauna off the coast of Madagascar is threatened. It is not unusual to find small, and large fish, as well as sharks without fins washing up on the beaches…

Khat and prostitution

In Nosy Be, the lure of prostitution corrupts a portion of the female population. Thus, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is very high. The girls are in search of “vazaha manam-bola”, or rich foreigners. Another problem for the Nosy Be residents involves Khat, an evergreen tropical shrub, known for its hallucinogenic properties. Many island residents, men, women, young, and old, chew this plant?s green leaves incessantly.


Despite this unflattering image of Nosy Be, less than one year after the end of the 2001 crisis, one of the people we spoke to remains confident that tourism, one of the primary sources of hard currency in Madagascar, has a future here. Our investor has lived through the last two political crises which has devastated Madagascar, and admits that President Ravalomanana?s latest speech has given him a lot of reasons to hope, and to believe. He points out, “For the first time, his speech was more than just rhetoric; it actually contained a tangible willingness to do something. It is up to us, the investors, to take advantage of all of the opportunities as they arise. Opening provincial airports to international flights will go a long way toward reviving tourism. Today, the primary wild card remains the aftermath of the Iraqi crisis on world economy.”

Translated by J. F. Razanamiadana