In the Zones Rouges of southern Madagascar, economic opportunities are scarce, as is any presence of the state: the police are particularly absent from most villages.
But there are lots of zebu - the country’s distinctive breed of humpbacked cattle. Millions of them. Each worth several hundred US dollars. This walking wealth makes for easy prey for rustlers known as dahalo, who rob and kill with virtual impunity.
With no one to turn to for protection, civilians are forming their own vigilante units, called zama. Armed only with crude weapons and denied training or support from the government, they are no match for the dahalo, but this does little to dent their zeal.
IRIN’s latest film, The Zebu and the Zama - Bounty and Bloodshed in Southern Madagascar, explores a vicious cycle of violence in which the dahalo murder those who get in the way and the zama mete out deadly “justice” on those they suspect of banditry.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions