A national day of mourning was proclaimed on Sunday after 28 protesters were killed and a further 200 people were seriously injured in a police shooting on Saturday during a demonstration against a 99-year lease of 1.3 billion hectares of land – more than half the island’s cultivable land – to the South Korean company Daewoo.
Tensions on the Indian Ocean island, the world’s biggest producer of vanilla and home to hundreds of wildlife species found nowhere else on earth, have been rising for several weeks following political instability and protest against the Daewoo investment.
Daewoo Logistics announced the agreement with the Madagascan government last November, stating that the secured land, which is an area roughly half the size of Belgium, is intended to produce four million tons of corn and 500,000 tons of palm oil a year for export.
Madagascar, which sits about 480 kilometers off the east coast of Africa, boasts an incredible diversity of animal and plant species that have developed in isolation over the centuries. Inhabitants have been fighting to protect their country’s natural resources since November last year, lead by Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of the island’s capital Antananarivo.
The African island is in fact home to 5 percent of the world’s animal and vegetable species, 80 percent of which are endemic. Among this exceptional biodiversity are the lemur, three endemic bird species, chameleons and types of baobab tree.