Scattered Islands: look back on a year of blockage between France and Madagascar

The twelve members of the mixed commission on the Scattered Islands, meeting for the first time on November 18, 2019. RFI / Sarah Tétaud

Text by: RFI Follow

A year ago, the French president received Andry Rajoelina at the Élysée Palace. The question of the Scattered Islands, this set of uninhabited islets off the Malagasy coast, attached by decree to the Ministry of Dom-Tom in 1960 on the eve of Independence and claimed since 1973 by Antananarivo, was addressed. At the end of their meeting, the two heads of state announced the establishment of a joint commission to discuss the future of these islands. But a year later, the two countries are still on their positions and nothing has really progressed.


Read more

With our correspondent in Madagascar, Sarah Tétaud

May 29, 2019: Emmanuel Macron and Andry Rajoelina announce that they will resume discussions on the status of the Scattered Islands. The two presidents then agreed to deal with this issue, not by legal recourse or through international bodies, but in a bilateral framework, by setting up a joint commission, to reach a consensual solution of here June 2020, the 60th anniversary of Madagascar's independence.

A new era ?

On the Big Island, this meeting is seen as the start of a new era. Many are convinced that finally, Madagascar will recover its "Nosy Malagasy" (Malagasy islands). On the French side, this is the starting point for a big misunderstanding.

On October 23, during a two-hour scientific visit to Grande-Glorieuse, one of the five islands that make up the Scattered Islands, Emmanuel Macron announces the classification of the island as a national natural reserve, and pronounces in passing his famous "  Here is France  ”, considered by the Madagascans as a flip-flop for the French president.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Scattered Islands on October 23, 2019. JACQUES WITT / POOL / AFP

On November 18, in Antananarivo, the first meeting between the two parties finally takes place. The bases are laid in a joint communiqué: "  The two delegations noted the existence, at this stage, of a dispute on the question of sovereignty"

On December 10 and 11, the Malagasy government is organizing a national consultation in Antananarivo to collect suggestions from citizens wishing to give their opinion on the issue of the retrocession. The stated objective: to support the arguments for the second bilateral meeting. It is also an opportunity for the authorities to close ranks around patriotic and sovereignist values.

No meetings with the coronavirus

In mid-December, dates are proposed by France, which is supposed to host the second meeting. It is rumored that a meeting could take place before New Year's Eve. Madagascar hesitates. A cabinet reshuffle is planned shortly, with the key being the appointment of a new Minister of Foreign Affairs to fill a position left vacant for several months.

Finally, three months passed, and in mid-March, the pandemic ruled out any possibility of meeting. It was not until May 11 that Andry Rajoelina relaunched the debate . Asked about RFI-France 24, he pleads for a "  quick solution that will satisfy the demand for restitution  ". Coincidentally, the same day in France, a public consultation on a draft decree relating to the creation of the "national nature reserve of the Glorious archipelago" was launched for three weeks by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

This consultation is seen as an act of mistrust. Madagascar then accuses France of taking decisions unilaterally as to the fate of these islands. The French ambassador is summoned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Since then, nothing. Less than a month before the celebration of Madagascar's 60 years of independence, discussions have stalled.

Far hope now

On the French side, it is stated that “  none of the parties would be interested in an immediate meeting. No one would have much to say to the other  . " On the Malagasy side, the announcement of a return of the islands for the 60th anniversary of independence is only a distant hope.  But the work continues. This is not a one-off file  , ”nevertheless confirms one of the Madagascan negotiators.

Newsletter Receive all international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Madagascar
  • France
  • Andry Rajoelina
  • Emmanuel Macron

On the same subject

Scattered Islands: Malagasy deputies request mediation with France

Madagascar opposes the French project for a nature reserve on the Scattered Islands

Madagascar / Scattered Islands

Scattered Islands: in Madagascar, we are refining the strategy vis-à-vis France