Country Code: 261
ISO Code: MDG/MG
Madagascar (in Malagasy: Repoblikan’i Madagasikara, in French: République de Madagascar) is an island country located in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of the African continent, east of Mozambique. It is also the largest island in Africa and the fourth largest in the world and is formed by small and numerous islands. It is separated from the mainland by the Mozambique channel. Formerly the island was united to the African continent, from which it separated. Its isolation has favored the conservation in its territory of many unique species in the world, 80% of them endemic to the island . The most notable are the lemurs (an infraorder of primates), the carnivorous pit, five endemic families of birds and six endemic species of baobabs.
Madagascar is Malagasy and the national language is Malagasy, its second language is French. The majority of its inhabitants have traditional beliefs, are Christians, or an amalgamation of both. Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. Ecotourism and agriculture, together with increased investments in education, health and private enterprise, are key elements of Madagascar’s development strategy.
However, these benefits were not distributed evenly throughout the population, producing tensions over the rising cost of living and the decline in the standard of living among the poor and some segments of the middle class. In 2017, the political and economic crisis 2009-2013 has weakened the economy and the quality of life remains low for the majority of the population. Madagascar was the name that the Portuguese gave to the island in 1502 and it derives from the medieval Latin: it was the name of an island that was supposed in that region and with which towards the year 1500 the present Madagascar was identified. In turn, the Latin name derived from Madeigascar (also Madagosho, Madagascar), which was the name of an African island-kingdom mentioned by Marco Polo in his book (late thirteenth century). Some sources claim that this name would emerge from the confusion with Mogadishu, capital of Somalia.
As for the name “Malagasy” with which it is called its inhabitants, the term comes from the French, which was taken from “Malagasy”, which was the name given by the original inhabitants of the island.
The first human settlement probably dates from the fourth century or shortly before. In any case, there is no evidence of human presence before the birth of Christ. Although the distance between Madagascar and the closest point in Africa is 416 (near Lumbo, in Mozambique) and the distance to the closest point of Indonesia (on the island of Siberut) is more than 5,500 kilometers,
Madagascar It was colonized by the Indonesians before by the Africans, which is why the locals preserve Asian features, typical customs of Southeast Asia and a language of the Malay-Polynesian trunk, as well as their domestic animals, among which the Zebu stands out. and shortly after their arrival, several endemic animals of the island became extinct, such as the giant lemur, the elephant bird, the anteater of Madagascar or a pygmy hippo similar to that which is currently found in western Africa.
Subsequently there were Bantu migrations from the continent that merged with the local population, especially in the eastern part of the island. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the first Persian merchants arrived and by the year 1000, the Arabs. As a consequence, the majority religion in the northern part of the island is Islam.
During the next two centuries, Portugal, Spain, Great Britain and France tried to settle on the coast, but were expelled by the resistance of the natives, who by the end of the seventeenth century had unified under the reign of Imerina, based on the plateau central.
However, the local population also suffered, like many African peoples, the slave trade. By way of example, the Europeans brought Malagasy slaves to the Viceroyalty of Peru, settling them mainly on the northern coast of that country, in an area known as Piura.
Currently in Peru, descendants of those slaves are known as “mangaches”, for a corruption of the language in time. There is even a place in Peru called “Hacienda Malakasy”, which dates back to the time when the Malagasy were exploited in the cultivation of the countryside and that evokes the name of their country of origin but pronounced in their own language. These descendants of Malagasy still retain in many cases the original Afro-Indonesian traits. Its imbrication with Peru was so strong that they contributed to the culture of this country, creating musical forms such as tondero and even had political influence: the Peruvian president Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro, who ruled that country in the third decade of the 20th century, was a “mangache”
There was a time when outlaws and buccaneers toured its shores. The Dutch captain Van Tyle sailed in consortium with Captain James and made several dams in the Indian Ocean. Van Tyle owned a plantation in Madagascar, where his prisoners and slaves worked. This pirate was killed by a slave. The pirate Thomas Tew also had his headquarters in Madagascar. Its place of operations were the waters of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Tew died when his ship exploded during a battle on the high seas. The most famous pirate of this region was Thomas Collins, appointed governor of the pirate colony and who built a fort for his defense. But when French forces attacked the island, Collins was executed by hanging.
Between 1642 and 1674, the French wanted to occupy the coasts of Madagascar from Fort Dauphin, without success. Finally, at the end of the 18th century they managed to build different commercial bases on the Malagasy coasts, sometimes by force and sometimes diplomatically. During the Napoleonic Wars, King Radama I of Imerina sided with the British, who increased their influence on the island at the expense of the French and trained the natives in the use of modern weapons. However, on the death of Radama I in 1828 the British were persecuted, including the missionaries. During the reign of Radama II (1861-1863) a series of modernist reforms were introduced and Madagascar opened up in contact with French and British, which caused the more traditional sectors to kill the king and reverse the changes.
The last sovereign of Madagascar was Queen Ranavalona III (1883-1917). During his reign, the French claimed part of the northwest coast that the local chiefs had given them, but those of the tribe of Imerina refused. This refusal caused the war (1882-85). Despite the continued support of the English, eager to establish at least their influence on the territory, the rebels had to sign a treaty by which the city of Diego Suarez was delivered to France and the entire island became part of its protectorate.
During the revolt, the fragile economy of the island and the lack of coins, forced Queen Ranavalona to allow the legal circulation of different foreign pieces throughout the territory. To do this, a circular mark was stamped with the letter “R”, caption “ROYAUME DE MADAGASCAR” and date. Pieces of 8 Spanish reales, French francs and talers of Queen Maria Teresa of Austria are known with this curious countermark. In 1895, France annexed the island completely, after defeating Queen Ranavalona III. This one was exiled a year later, at the time that a French military mandate was instituted and Madagascar was proclaimed a French colony.
Already in 1916 the French had problems with the nationalist secret organizations, but managed to maintain order. During 1942, France lost control of the island when the British occupied it for fear that Japan would do so. In 1943 it was handed over to free France, and in 1946 it ceased to be a colony and became French overseas territory. This did not prevent a revolt that forced France to call elections on the island, which the moderate independents won, the following year.
In 1960 Madagascar became completely independent from France and a republic was established under the government of Philibert Tsiranana, leader of the Social Democratic Party. In 1975, a military coup d’état put the government in the hands of the frigate’s captain Didier Ratsiraka, who ruled with an iron fist until in 1992 popular pressure forced him to appoint a transitional government to democracy. Ratsiraka was defeated in the 1993 presidential election by Albert Zafy but won the legislative ones that were held simultaneously. The tension between the supporters of Ratsiraka and the government of Zafy led to the destitution of the latter by parliament in 1996, which was replaced by Norbert Ratsirahonana. He was a close associate of Zafy, who ruled in his shadow until the 1997 elections, in which Ratsiraka took power again. In these elections, Gisèle Rabesahala became the first Malagasy woman to be named minister.
Didier Ratsiraka would retain power until the December 2001 presidential elections, when after some controversial results, his rival, the then-mayor of Antananarivo Marc Ravalomanana, proclaimed himself winner by absolute majority in the first round of the elections, accusing him of fraud government, which had published results that required a second round.
The tension of the first half of 2002 came to threaten the possibility of a civil war. The society and the Malagasy army itself were divided into two: the Antananarivo capital converted into a bastion of Ravalomanana, while Ratsiraka led a government in the coastal city of Toamasina. The international community made various calls for dialogue and calm. Ravalomanana managed to consolidate his power, while Ratsiraka was losing support. In June 2002, some countries such as the United States, Switzerland and Norway already recognized the Ravalomanana government. Other European countries awaited the final decision of France, which, in early July, was already publicly addressing Ravalomanana as “President of Madagascar”. International recognition confirmed the power of Ravalomanana, and Ratsiraka finally fled the country, and took refuge in France.
Since the consolidation of power by Marc Ravalomanana, the country has managed to reach very high levels of economic growth, supported by very large aid from international institutions such as the World Bank.
Massive protests against the government began in January 2009. Violence confronted then-President Marc Ravalomanana with Andry Rajoelina, mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. More than 170 people lost their lives. Rajoelina mobilized his supporters to take to the streets of Antananarivo to demand the dismissal of Ravalomanana, because of his alleged style of “autocratic” government and against his economic policy and granting agricultural land to foreign consortiums.
On March 16, 2009, military opponents of the government of Marc Ravalomanana took different state buildings, such as the Central Bank. The next day, Ravalomanana resigned and yielded his powers to a military council, loyal to himself, headed by Vice Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson. The military then claimed that Ravalomanana’s action was a “maneuver” and most of the military leadership supported Andry Rajoelina as leader of a “transitional government”.
From a month before, Rajoelina had already proclaimed himself the new leader and had assumed the role of president of the “High Authority of the Transition”. He appointed Monja Roindefo as Prime Minister, and the new president announced that the elections would be held within two years and that the Constitution would be modified.
The European Union, among other international entities, has refused to recognize the new government, because it was installed by force. The African Union, suspended the membership of Madagascar on March 20, 2010. A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, announced that he is “gravely concerned about the developments in Madagascar.” Although the foreign governments avoided legitimizing this change of power, the Constitutional Court recognized the order of transfer of powers of the military directorate, according to a document obtained by international news agencies.