Madagascar History

Madagascar History

Early period until the 19th century

The first settlement of the island by Indonesian sailors of Malay-Polynesian origin probably took place in the first century AD. From the beginning of the 9th century, Arab and African slave traders founded their first branches on the west coast of Madagascar. Around 1500, Portuguese seafarers were the first Europeans to land on the island. Neither the Portuguese nor the subsequent Dutch, English and French initially managed to establish themselves on the island or to subjugate and Christianize the local population. In addition to the fierce resistance of the tribes, the Europeans had to contend with the damp climate along the coast. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Kingdom of Merina emerged on the island after the chief of a highland tribe succeeded several tribes to one. The center of the empire was the city of Antananarivo. Under King Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810) all other tribes in Madagascar were conquered towards the end of the 18th century. Under his son Radama I, the English and with them the European Christian culture were able to gain a foothold on the island by supplying the regent with weapons. After the death of King Radama I, missionaries and Europeans were first exposed from the island, only from the middle of the 19th century did Christianity establish itself on the island under the ruler Ranavalona II (1861 to 1896).

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French rule

At the end of the 19th century, the French conquered Madagascar despite the fierce resistance of the local population. The capital was captured in 1896 and the monarchy abolished in 1897. Madagascar finally became a French colony. The first large-scale plantations for the cultivation of tobacco, coffee, vanilla, cloves and sugar cane were created on the east coast. Railway lines were built to transport the goods to the ports of Toamasina and Manakara.

After the end of the Second World War, Madagascar was declared French territory by France, the residents of the island were granted French citizenship and limited self-government. At the same time, the resistance movement “Mouvement D¨¦mocratique de la R¨¦novation Malgache” (MDRM) was formed in the country. Revolts took the lives of thousands of residents.

At the end of the 1950s, Madagascar became a republic within the French community and received its own constitution. According to AbbreviationFinder, Antananarivo became the country’s official capital. The first head of state was Philibert Tsiranana from the “Parti Social-D¨¦mocrate” (SDP). In 1960 the island finally became independent. Madagascar remained economically oriented to France, and from the beginning of the 1970s trade relations with politically isolated South Africa were established.

Recent developments

Domestic political unrest led to a military government in 1972: Didier Ratsiraka (from 1975 to 1993) became president of the Supreme Revolutionary Council from the party “Avantgarde de la r¨¦volution malagasy” (AREMA), which declared Madagascar the “Democratic Republic”. The government increasingly turned away from France and South Africa towards the Eastern Bloc countries and China. Following the socialist model, banks, insurance companies and companies were nationalized, agricultural businesses were converted into cooperatives and a one-party system was introduced. The 1980s were characterized by increasing unrest among the population, which was triggered by the poor economic situation and social contrasts.

At the end of the 1980s, western-oriented opposition forces (“Comit¨¦ National des Forces Vives”) merged, and after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, ruling President Ratsiraka was forced to take the opposition into government. The multi-party system was reintroduced in 1992 and the power of the President was restricted. In the December 1992 elections, Albert Zafy, the representative of the “Forces Vives” alliance, received the most votes. In March 1993, Zafy became President and issued a general amnesty for political prisoners. The Prime Minister also became a representative of the “Forces Vives”, Francisque Ravony. The country’s main problem at that time was poverty among large parts of the population and an impending famine.

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In 1996, President Zafy was relieved of his office for exceeding his authority, and his successor was again Didier Ratsiraka, who had returned from exile. The new head of government in 1997 was the impartial Rascal Rakotomavo, who was finance and economy minister under Ratsiraka in the 1980s. The ruling party AREMA (now “Association pour la Renaissance de Madagascar”) won 63 out of a total of 150 seats in parliamentary elections in May 1998, and Ren¨¦ Tantely Andrianarivo became the new head of government.

In the wake of the December 2001 presidential election, there were mass protests accusing Ratsiraka of manipulating the elections. After a new count of votes in April 2002, the Constitutional Court declared opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana the winner. His policies led to a rapid recovery in the economy, but as a result of which the rate of inflation rose so much that staple foods were barely affordable for many people. Nevertheless, Ravalomanana was confirmed in office in 2006.

In 2006, English was chosen as the third official language alongside Malagasy and French. The main aim was to facilitate economic and political integration in southern Africa. English is officially spoken in the majority of the countries.

In July 2007, President Ravalomanana dissolved the National Assembly prematurely, on the grounds that the parliament had not been representative since the April referendum. In this referendum, an administrative reform, a parliamentary downsizing and a change in the electoral system were decided by a large majority. The real reason, however, was differences within the party. The parliamentary elections on September 23, 2007 led to a landslide victory for the ruling party: the TIM received 105 out of 127 seats. Ravalomanana has been accused of election fraud. The new government was introduced on October 26, 2007; General Rabemananjara remained prime minister.

Former Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina succeeded in building public pressure against the government with his TGV opposition movement and came to power in March 2009 with the help of military mutineers. The image of Madagascar, which had been systematically built up in previous years as a politically stable country, was severely affected by riots, looting and military operations with fatalities in January / February 2009. Marc Ravalomanana had to leave the country. Since the end of March 2009, a democratically illegitimate interim government under Rajoelina has been ruling, which has been subjected to international diplomatic sanctions. Presidential elections overseen by the international community were finally held in October 2013 The runoff election in December 2013 was won by Hery Rajaonarimampianina; he was sworn in in January 2014.

Madagascar President