During “Gasy Mahasaky Awards 2017”, a national awards ceremony held on 31st January 2018, Attoumany Alily was recognised for his courage and posthumously received the “Prix du Courage Citoyen” or “Courageous Citizen Award”. He has been honored with eleven other activists and grassroots communities for taking action against the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Madagascar.
The award was presented to Attoumany’s family and loved ones on February 5th in his home village of Antsahampano. Attoumany’s only daughter, Zaotony Alily, was deeply moved by this presentation, and thanked all those who had helped her father’s efforts to get recognised.
Upon receiving the award, the family is are proud and hopeful that their Attoumany Alily will no longer be remembered as just a member of Antsahampano’s mangrove patrol team, but rather as a national hero who died defending Madagascar’s natural resources.
Attoumany Alily was a member of the village natural resource management committee (the Communauté Locale de Base or CLB), known as FIZAMITI, Antsahampano’s Locally Managed Marine Area.
Having noticed the existence of illicit coal production in Antsahampano, an area where management of natural resources was transferred by to the local population by the State, the CLB launched extra ranger patrols to ascertain the truth of the situation.
Witnesses attest that on 20th July 2016, the day Attoumany lost his life, his group of FIZAMITI rangers were ambushed whilst patrolling the mangroves around Antsahampano.
Later on the same day, nine people were arrested in connection with the attack, and Attoumany’s family and the CLB filed a lawsuit against them. As part of the investigation, four of the nine were released, two were the subjects of a notice of search, and five were transferred to Ambanja prison.
Uncertainty over the judicial outcome and the slow pace of judicial proceedings aggravated the Antsahampano community, and they demanded that the prisoners be transferred to Tsiafahy and an exemplary punishment be applied if guilt was proven.
However, almost a year and a half later, despite numerous arrests only one coal miner has been convicted of illegal logging. All other defendants in the case have been released, and there is concern amongst the Antsahampano community that the trial may not have been fairly executed. Rumours have been circulating that the Alily family lawyer and the CLB were not notified of the day of the hearing.
Even after an appeal, the CLB’s case did not succeed. According to the Alily family lawyer, the judgment rendered is still subject to an appeal to the Supreme Court.
A recognition that will inspire grassroots communities throughout Madagascar
At the award presentation in Antsahampano, in front of civil society organisations such as the Alliance Voahary Gasy (AVG), the Sambirano Committee for Development and the Environment, and the MIHARI Network, members of the Antsahampano CLB called for increased support so that they can continue their patrols without fear.
The “Gasy Mahasaky Awards” are an initiative of the Diaspora Gasy Reunion and a collective of other civil society organisations and citizen movements wishing to support citizen efforts for a better Madagascar, namely: Rindran’ny Olompirenena Hiarovana ny Iaraha-manana, Sehatra Iombonana ho an’ny Fananantany, AVG, and Wake Up Madagascar.
The “Prix du Courage Citoyen” is a well-deserved tribute to Attoumany, and a formal recognition of conservation efforts. This will serve as a recognition that Attoumany lost his life in the general interest, and a source of motivation for other communities trying to sustainably manage their mangroves against adversity, especially in the northwest of Madagascar.