Thugs, Bugs and Vanilla

Madagascar, a “continent of an island” as the advertising goes, is so unique that a large portion of its fl ora and fauna are strictly endemic, not to be found elsewhere. The same could be said of its politics, which are dominated by a tribe—the Merina—that originated in Indonesia pre-16th century. Citizens of African and Arab descent, who live mostly on the coasts, play a lesser role. For even though recent postcolonial rulers were not Merina, the tribe kept a secret grasp on power. This group controls most of local politics, which is characterized by centuries-long feuds centered on family problems.

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