6. French Madagascar (1946-1960)

 

Crisis Phase (February 22, 1946-March 28, 1947):  On February 22, 1946, Malagasy nationalists, including Joseph Raseta, Joseph Ravoahangy, and Jacques Rabemananjara, established the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Renewal (Movement Democratique de la Renovation Malgache – MDRM) in Paris, France.  The MDRM promoted Malagasy self-government within the French Union.  Two of the MDRM leaders, Joseph Raseta and Joseph Ravoahangy, proposed legislation in the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth French Republic on March 21, 1946, which would have provided for the political independence of Madagascar from France.  The legislation, along with a second version that called for French-Malagasy negotiations and Malagasy constituent assembly elections, was strongly opposed by the French government in Paris.  The first French Constituent Assembly adopted a draft French constitution that was rejected in a referendum held in France on May 5, 1946.  Two of the MDRM leaders, Joseph Raseta and Joseph Ravoahangy, were elected to seats in the second French Constituent Assembly of the Fourth French Republic on June 2, 1946.  The Democratic Party of Madagascar (Parti Démocratique de Madagascar – PDM) was established under the leadership of Pastor Ravelojaona and Gabriel Razafintsalama on June 2, 1946.  That same month, the Party of the Marginalized of Madagascar (Parti des Déshérités de Madagascar – PADESM) was established under the leadership of Philibert Tsiranana in opposition to the MDRM.  Malagasys clashed with government police in Sabotsy nearTananarive in June 1946, resulting in the deaths of two individuals.  Five Comorians were killed by Malagasys in Tamatave in July 1946.  Following the adoption of a new French constitution in a referendum held on October 13, 1946, the French parliament declared that Madagascar was an Overseas Territory within the French Union on October 25, 1946.  Marcel de Coppet was appointed as Governor-General of the Overseas Territory of Madagascar on October 27, 1946.  Three of the MDRM leaders, Joseph Raseta, Joseph Ravoahangy, and Jacques Rabemananjara were elected as Madagascar’s deputies in the French National Assembly on November 10, 1946.  Elections for local and the five provincial assemblies were held in Madagascar on January 12-19, 1947, and the MDRM won a majority of the seats in all provincial assemblies except Mahajanga Province.  The provincial assemblies then elected members to the Territorial Assembly of Madagascar.

Conflict Phase (March 29, 1947-December 31, 1948):  Malagasy nationalists led by Samuel Rakotondrabe and Edmond Ravelonahina launched an uprising against the French colonial government in Madagascar beginning on March 29, 1947.  Malagasy insurgents attacked a French military garrison in Moramanga on March 29, 1947, resulting in the deaths of 20 French and Senegalese soldiers.  Several members of the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Renewal (Movement Democratique de la Renovation Malgache – MDRM), including Joseph Ravoahangy and Jacques Rabemananjara, were arrested by French government authorities in Madagascar on April 12, 1947.  French troops killed some 150 MDRM members in Moramanga on May 6, 1947.  The French government dissolved the MDRM on May 10, 1947.  Pierre de Chevigne was appointed as Governor-General of French Madagascar in February 1948.  Several MDRM members, including Joseph Ravoahangy, Joseph Raseta, and Jacques Rabemananjara, were put on trial in the French Criminal Court in Tananarive from July 22 to October 4, 1948.  Each of the three MDRM leaders,  Joseph Ravoahangy, Joseph Raseta, and Jacques Rabemananjara, were sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment) or life imprisonment with hard labor on October 4, 1948.  Twenty-four individuals, including Samuel Rakotondrabe and Edmond Ravelonahina, were executed for their involvement in the uprising.  French government troops suppressed the Malagasy uprising in December 1948.  Some 15,000 to 30,000 individuals died as a result of the conflict.  Some 550 Europeans, including 350 French government soldiers and 140 French civilians, were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (January 1, 1949-June 26, 1960):  Robert Bargues was appointed as Governor-General of French Madagascar on February 3, 1950.  Elections were held for the French National Assembly on June 17, 1951.  Elections for local and provincial assemblies in French Madagascar were held on March 30, 1952.  The French National Assembly approved an amnesty law for political prisoners in Madagascar on March 24, 1956.  Former MDRM leaders, Joseph Ravoahangy, Joseph Raseta, and Jacques Rabemananjara, were granted amnesty and released from prison on March 29, 1956.  Elections for the French National Assembly were held on January 2, 1956.  Philibert Tsiranana was elected as one of Madagascar’s deputies in the French National Assembly.  Diego-Suarez became Madagascar’s sixth province on June 23, 1956.  Municipal elections were held in Madagascar on November 18, 1956.  The Social Democratic Party of Madagascar (Parti Social Démocrate de Madagascar – PSD) was established under the leadership of Philibert Tsiranana in Majunga District on December 28, 1956.  Elections for local and the six provincial assemblies were held in French Madagascar on March 30, 1957.  The provincial assemblies elected delegates to the Territorial Assembly in Antananarivo on May 13-19, 1957.  All remaining political prisoners, including members of the MDRM imprisoned since the 1947 Malagasy uprising, were released from prison on May 18, 1957. The Malagasy Democratic and Social Union (Union Démocratique et Sociale de Madagascar – UDSM) was established under Norbert Zafimahova leadership in 1957.  Some 78 percent of Malagasy voters approved the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic in a referendum held on September 28, 1958. The Territorial Assembly proclaimed the Malagasy Republic as a semi-autonomous republic within the French Union on October 14, 1958.  Philibert Tsiranana of the PSD was elected as prime minister of the Malagasy Republic on October 14, 1958.  Andrè Soucadaux was appointed as High Commissioner of the Malagasy Republic on October 14, 1958, and he announced the abrogration of the 1896 Annexation Law on October 15, 1958.  The communist-affiliated Party of the Independence Congress of Madagascar (Parti du Congrès de l’indépendence de Madagascar – PICM) was established under the leadership of Richard Andriamanjato on November 8, 1958.  Philibert Tsiranana of the PSD was elected President of the Malagasy Republic by the Constituent Assembly on April 27, 1959, and he was sworn in as President on May 1, 1959.  The Malagasy Republic adopted a constitution on April 29, 1959.  Municipal elections were held in the Malagasy Republic on October 11, 1959, and the PCIM won 25 out of 37 seats in the municipal assembly in Antananarivo in central Madagascar.  The PCIM also won 19 out of 27 seats in the municipal assembly in Diego-Suarez (Antsiranana) in northern Madagascar.  French and Malagasy representatives began negotiations in Paris on February 11, 1960. The parties signed an agreement in Paris on April 2, 1960, which provided for the independence of the Malagasy from France. The Malagasy Republic formally attained its independence from France on June 26, 1960.

[Sources: Allen, 1995; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 54-55; Butterworth, 1976, 86-88; Clodfelter, 1992, 1012; Facts on File, March 30-April 5, 1947, August 2-9, 1947; Keesing’s Record of World Events, April 9-16, 1960.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Brown, Mervyn. 1979. Madagascar Rediscovered: A History from Early Times to Independence. Hamden, CT: Archon Books.

Heseltine, Nigel. 1971. Madagascar. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Marcus, Richard R. and Adrien M. Ratsimbaharison. 2005. “Political Parties in Madagascar: Neopatrimonial Tools or Democratic Instruments?” Party Politics, vol. 11 (4), pp. 495-512.

Thompson, Virginia and Richard Adloff. 1965. The Malagasy Republic: Madagascar Today. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.