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Madagascar: background

Last modified: 2006-01-07 by bruce berry
Keywords: madagascar | royal | ranavalona iii | benyowszky |
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image by Antonio Martins, 24 April 1999 See also:

Background information

For way of symbolism, the red and white refer to Madagascar's South East Asian links (I believe the island was first settled by SE Asians).
David Kendall, 20 June 1995

Do you think the colors are related to the Indonesian ones (which in turn are derived from the colors of the liberation movement)?
Harald Müller, 11 October 1996

Very likely as, if I recall correctly, the Malagasy are supposed to have come from Malaysia / Indonesia, and the red-and-white Indonesian flag is said to be of pre-European origin.
Roy Stilling, 11 October 1996

Inhabitants of Malayo-Indonesian origin were not the first settlers. There were populations from Africa before. As you probably know, major African civilizations were not attracted to the seashore, for various reasons, including quest for healthier places, and this goes for Madagascar as well. When navigators from SE Asia arrived, they gained political supremacy and thus built their kingdom in the highlands (where Antananarivo now lies), while unmitigated Africans were more or less forced to move towards the coast. This is why the majority is Merina inside the country and Sakalave or related people near the sea (this is the same group as in the Comoros, for instance). This is just from memory, but I think that it should be basically right.
Were there "African" flags or banners in Madagascar before Asians came in ?
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 2 January 1999

Official name of the country was changed in 1995 and is now: Repoblikan'i Madagasikar (Republic of Madagascar).
The country is divided in 6 provinces:

  • Antananarivo (ex Tananarive)
  • Antsiranana (ex Diégo-Suarez)
  • Fianarantsoa
  • Mahajanga (ex Majunga)
  • Toamasina (ex Tamatave)
  • Toliary (Toliara) (ex Tuléar)
According to the 1992 Constitution, Malagays is the "national" language, but there is no mention of an "official" language (neither Malagasy nor French).
Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis, Chiffres du Monde, 1998, pp. 282-283
Ivan Sache, 28 Jun 1999

I have tried to present the full history (I hope). A useful source for such job is this site, containing lists of rulers since about 1940 for almost anything you can imagine.

  • 1817 the kingdom of Imerina, having conquered practically the whole island, may now be considered to have become the Kingdom of Madagascar
  • 6 Aug 1896 Kingdom of Imerina under French protectorate
  • 28 Feb 1897 French colony
  • 1946 French overseas territory
  • 14 Oct 1958 autonomy (Malagasy Republic)
  • 26 Jun 1960 independence [as Malagasy Republic]
  • 30 Dec 1975 Democratic Republic of Madagascar
  • 12 Sep 1992 Republic of Madagascar
Željko Heimer, 20 May 2000

1. English name of the language is Malagasy And a side-comment: concerning languages, the 1992 Constitution says that Malagasy is "national language", although neither Malagasy nor French appear as "official" languages in the constitutional texts. I translate this from Encyclopaedia Universalis Yearbook but I don't really understand it.
Ivan Sache, 20 May 2000

I found that correct name of Madagascar is: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara (Malgache) or Republique de Madagascar (French). The first official language is Malgache and French is the second one. You can check it on the site of Malgache Justice Ministry
Krzysztof Kurzeja, 09 Nov 2000

The island's name in the language of the country is Madagasikara, hence the English form of the name given above and its equivalents in various European languages. But the adjective is Malagasy (pronounced Mal-gash - hence the French spelling Malgache). The first stamps issued by the independent state were inscribed République Malgache. Subsequently the indigenous language was preferred, and the inscription became (depending on politics) Repoblika Malagasy or Repoblika Demokratika Malagasy (the word "democratic" as usual indicating a completely undemocratic regime). There is a language atlas that gives the place of origin of the Malagasy language as being in southern Borneo/Kalimantan, rather than on the Malay peninsula or on Java or Sumatra (the main Malay islands of Indonesia).
The Madagascar page also mentions the Komoro islands (Comoros being the French form of the name). It is correct that the original human population of the Komoros had the same origin as the Malagasy. However, later immigration from the African continent, and the influence of Arab traders, resulted in the languages of those islands being dialects of Swahili. Each island has a different dialect, requiring distinct translations of the Bible into the indigenous language. Since the language of administration is French and the language of Muslim religion is Arabic, the Bibles brought in by Christian missionaries are the only available texts in the language of the inhabitants.

Your chronology mentions French involvement in 19th-century Madagascar, but not British. Britain was in fact far more involved with the indigenous kingdom and was in the process of proclaiming a protectorate when the British were out maneuvered (as they were also in South West Africa) by the French, who then proceeded to suppress all opposition ruthlessly.
Mike Oettle, 02 Jan 2002

After taking control of Antananarivo by self-declared president Ravalomanana, governors of the other five provinces declared a new capital, Tamatave (= Toamasina), a heartland of Didier Ratsiraka, the recognized/incumbent president of the Republic of
Jan Zrzavy, 05 Mar 2002

The High Constitutional Court says a recount of the December presidential election shows Marc Ravalomanana was the winner with 51.5% of the vote, while Didier Ratsiraka won 35.9%. Ratsiraka does not recognize this result. While Ravalomanana holds power in the capital Antananarivo, the governors of the other provinces remain loyal to Ratsiraka. On 30 April the governor of Antsiranana, Jean Robert Gara, proclaims his province a "sovereign state, independent in the confederation of Madagascar."
Jan Zrzavy, 01 May 2002

As reported today, Toamasina province has also declared independence due to the presidential arguments that's been going on in Madagascar for some time now.
JJ Andersson, 01 May 2002