Latest News

Premises of a Civil War in Madagascar?

29 April 2013

Madagascar is currently going through a critical period: after the coup of 2009, new elections will be held in May and July of this year after having been repeatedly postponed. The situation on the ground remains of great concern, especially in the southern region of Madagascar where mass killings are perpetrated both by criminal gangs and security forces.

From stealing zebus…

It all started with the dahalos (Malagasy word for “bandits”) who came to the villages to steal the zebus (a type of cattle which are symbols of wealth in Madagascar). Originally, stealing zebus was a tradition for young men to prove their manhood: before the wedding, the husband-to-be would catch a zebu in a neighbouring village to prove that he would be able to feed his future family. This tradition was even accepted by the owners since they will also steal a zebu from another village.

Yet, what originally used to be a traditional practice to prove manhood has now turned into a large criminal organisation, which is a great source of earning money for these dahalos, in a country where over three quarters of the population live below the poverty line.

… to killing villagers

Since June 2012, the situation in Madagascar quickly deteriorated and turned into an open crisis. Heavily armed and well-organised groups of dahalos carried out violent attacks against villagers, mainly in rural areas of the south of Madagascar, destroying their houses.

Reportedly, the response from the police and military forces has worsened the situation. Indeed, since dahalos look and live like other peasant farmers and villagers, it is difficult to identify them from the rural populations. Security forces seem to think it is easier to burn down entire villages to ensure that those responsible are punished, no matter if innocent populations have to pay the greatest price.

These attacks from both armed groups and security forces have forced inhabitants to flee from their villages to the cities or in the forest, provoking a serious humanitarian situation of internally displaced population.

Photo of a Zebu Market in Madagascar
© Jialiang Gao / Wikimedia Commons
A vicious circle of never-ending violence

In response to this insecurity, villagers are trying to protect themselves by organising self-defense units, and even sometimes by hiring private security companies to protect them from bandits. The government does not only tolerate these reprisals from exasperated villagers but even strongly encourages them to defend themselves, and this is leading to an escalation of violence.

Indeed, villagers and private security companies have no interest in arresting these dahalos, since they either later escape with the help of their fellow bandits or are freed by a corrupt justice system. Instead, they try to kill them if possible: as a result, more than 100 dahalos are reported to have been killed by local populations.

In return, dahalos react by increasing their groups and armaments, and by killing more and more innocent people, feeding the vicious circle of never-ending violence…

Well-armed bandits… with the collusion of the State

Where there is armed violence, there is obviously a flow of arms fueling the conflict. The dahalos are armed with a whole range of weapons, from those dating back to World War I to modern Kalashnikovs.

European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and many others have been selling weapons to Madagascar despite the complete lack of control over the arms flow in this country. Small arms are circulating freely, adding to the fragility of an already tragic situation.

In addition, political instability stresses small arms proliferation on the island. During the conflict in 2002, lots of people were armed from State arsenals and the weapons have never been returned to date. Many of these people are today’s dahalos, and most of these weapons are now used against innocent civilians.

However, if dahalos are so well organised and armed, it is also due to the direct collaboration of the State’s security forces: investigations have proven that many former and current members of the State’s security sector are involved in arms trafficking and rent out their weapons to bandits to supplement low incomes. They also accept bribes to turn a blind eye on crimes committed by dahalos.

What to do?

To prevent this crisis from getting worse, it must be a priority for countries providing weapons to Madagascar to put an end to their arms shipments, especially in the context of the Arms Trade Treaty that has been voted very recently. This treaty requires exporting States to assess the risk that the weapons being transferred could be diverted for committing violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.

The Malagasy government has to tidy up its security forces and launch an independent investigation into these allegations of extrajudicial killings.

Finally, the authorities have to be reminded of their duty to protect the population from bandits. Encouraging them to kill each other will never lead to an improvement of the population’s security.

Share the post

Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Mauris facilisis luctus rhoncus. Praesent eget tellus sit amet enim consectetur condimentum et vel ante. Nulla facilisi. Suspendisse et nunc sem. Vivamus ullamcorper vestibulum neque, a interdum nisl accumsan ac. Cras ut condimentum turpis. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Curabitur efficitur gravida ipsum, quis ultricies erat iaculis pellentesque. Nulla congue iaculis feugiat. Suspendisse euismod congue ultricies. Sed blandit neque in libero ultricies aliquam. Donec euismod eget diam vitae vehicula. Fusce hendrerit purus leo. Aenean malesuada, ante eu aliquet mollis, diam erat suscipit eros, in.


WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

Skip to content