Capital : Antananarivo
Antananarivo, Toamasina, Toliara, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga
Size: 227 000 sq m Popn: 12 827 000
This is a large island off the coast of Mozambique. Its agricultural and mineral resources led to settlements by Africans, Malayans and Polynesians over 2000 years ago. In the C12th, they were joined by Arab traders and after 1500, Europeans began to visit. The Portuguese, Dutch and English gave up trying to establish themselves, leaving the French to found a colony in the mid C17th but they too fled after a massacre by the natives. The island was divided into small kingdoms until the late C18th when traders and missionaries helped the Merina people from the highland area to unite most of the country under a single ruler.
The terrible cruelty of the rule of Queen Ranavalona from 1828 was succeeded by that of her more moderate son, Rakota, but the French invaded in 1885-95 and began to exploit the country, making it a French protectorate. The island remained loyal to Vichy France during WWII but in 1942-3 was taken by the British and handed over to the Free French.
Resentment of French rule was widespread and the first major nationalist insurrection in 1947-8 killed many thousands of rebels. In 1958, Madagascar became an autonomous state within the French Community and nominally independent in 1960 but the first President, Philibert Tsirinana, was virtually a French puppet and the French remained on the island, helping to put down an uprising in 1971. He was the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) which was supported by the cotiers or coastal people, and wide unrest led to the Merina-backed military taking control under General Gabriel Ramanatsoa. He revised agreements with France to give the Malagassy Republic more power and severed links witn radical African nations, the Communist powers and South Africa among others. Peace was not forthcoming and he dissolved parliament in 1975.
His successor, Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava, was assassinated after two weeks and the crisis only ended when a junior naval officer, Lt.-Commander Didier Ratsirika, a cotier, was voted into power by the Military Directorate. As president of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar, he has improved democracy, developed links with other African states and survived various coups and the electoral challenge of Monja Jaona, leader of MONIMA (National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar). Ratsirika was re-elected in 1989 and his Front Line Revolutionary Organisation (AREMA) dominated the assembly. Opposition forces formed an alternative government and a state of emergency was declared in July 1991. Guy Razanamasy became prime minister with increased powers and he and Ratsirika signed and agreement with the opposition to form a new unity government which was approved in 1992.
The Sakalavas are the most widespread of the twenty tribes, although the Hova were supreme under Ranavalona in the C19th. Malagasy and French are spoken, 60% follow Christianity, 30% Islam and the rest traditional beliefs.
|Radama I||c 1822|
|Rakota||son of Ranavalona|
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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