The Malagasy Republic (Repoblika Malagasy) was an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community, The nation comprised the island of Madagascar and numerous smaller peripheral islands. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960. It existed until the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar in 1975. At 228,900 square miles (592,800 square kilometers), Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island. Neighboring islands include the French territory of Réunion and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.
In the Malagasy language, the island of Madagascar is called Madagasikara and its people are referred to as Malagasy. The island’s appellation “Madagascar” is not of local origin, but rather was popularized in the Middle Ages by Europeans. The name Madageiscar was first recorded in the memoirs of thirteenth-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo as a corrupted transliteration of the name Mogadishu, the Somali port with which Polo had confused the island. On St. Laurence’s Day in 1500, Portuguese explorer Diogo Dias landed on the island and christened it São Lourenço. Polo’s name was preferred and popularized on Renaissance maps. No single Malagasy-language name predating Madagasikara appears to have been used by the local population to refer to the island, although some communities had their own name for part or all of the land they inhabited.
As a result of the island’s long isolation from neighboring continents, Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic. This distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the “eighth continent”, and the island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot. More than 80 percent of Madagascar’s 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including five plant families.
The history of Madagascar is distinguished clearly by the early isolation of the landmass from the ancient supercontinents containing Africa and India, and by the island’s late colonization by human settlers arriving in outrigger canoes from the Sunda islands between 200 BC and 500 AD. These two factors facilitated the evolution and survival of thousands of endemic plant and animal species, some of which have gone extinct or are currently threatened with extinction due to the pressures of a growing human population.
The settlement of Madagascar is a subject of ongoing research and debate. Archaeological finds such as cut marks on bones found in the northwest and stone tools in the northeast indicate that Madagascar was visited by foragers around 2000 BC. Traditionally, archaeologists have estimated that the earliest settlers arrived in successive waves throughout the period between 350 BC and 550 AD, while others are cautious about dates earlier than 250 AD. In either case, these dates make Madagascar one of the last major landmasses on Earth to be settled by humans.
Early settlers arrived in outrigger canoes from southern Borneo. Upon arrival, early settlers practiced slash-and-burn agriculture to clear the coastal rainforests for cultivation. The first settlers encountered Madagascar’s abundance of megafauna, including giant lemurs, elephant birds, giant fossa and the Malagasy hippopotamus, which have since become extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction. By 600 AD, groups of these early settlers had begun clearing the forests of the central highlands. Arab traders first reached the island between the seventh and ninth centuries. A wave of Bantu-speaking migrants from southeastern Africa arrived around 1000 AD. They introduced the zebu, a type of long-horned humped cattle, which they kept in large herds.
By 1600, irrigated paddy fields were developed in the central highland Betsileo Kingdom, and were extended with terraced paddies throughout the neighboring Kingdom of Imerina a century later. The rising intensity of land cultivation and the ever-increasing demand for zebu pasturage had largely transformed the central highlands from a forest ecosystem to grassland by the seventeenth century. The oral histories of the Merina people, who may have arrived in the central highlands between 600 and 1000 years ago, describe encountering an established population they called the Vazimba. Probably the descendants of an earlier and less technologically advanced Austronesian settlement wave, the Vazimba were assimilated or expelled from the highlands by the Merina kings Andriamanelo, Ralambo and Andrianjaka in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Today, the spirits of the Vazimba are revered as tompontany (ancestral masters of the land) by many traditional Malagasy communities.
Madagascar was an important transoceanic trading hub connecting ports of the Indian Ocean in the early centuries following human settlement. The written history of Madagascar began with the Arabs, who established trading posts along the northwest coast by at least the tenth century and introduced Islam, the Arabic script (used to transcribe the Malagasy language in a form of writing known as sorabe), Arab astrology, and other cultural elements.
European contact began in 1500, when the Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sighted the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India. The Portuguese continued trading with the islanders and named the island São Lourenço (St. Lawrence). In 1666, François Caron, the director general of the newly formed French East India Company, sailed to Madagascar. The company failed to establish a colony on Madagascar but established ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon (now Réunion) and Isle de France (now Mauritius). In the late seventeenth century, the French established trading posts along the east coast. On Île Sainte-Marie, a small island off the northeastern coast of Madagascar, Captain Misson and his pirate crew allegedly founded the famous pirate utopia of Libertatia in the late seventeenth century. From about 1774 to 1824, Madagascar was a favorite haunt for pirates. Many European sailors were shipwrecked on the coasts of the island, among them Robert Drury, whose journal is one of the few written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the eighteenth century. Sailors sometimes called Madagascar “Island of the Moon”.
The wealth generated by maritime trade spurred the rise of organized kingdoms on the island, some of which had grown quite powerful by the seventeenth century. Among these were the Betsimisaraka alliance of the eastern coast and the Sakalava chiefdoms of Menabe and Boina on the west coast.
Upon its emergence in the early seventeenth century, the Kingdom of Imerina, located in the central highlands with its capital at the royal palace of Antananarivo, was initially a minor power relative to the larger coastal kingdoms and grew even weaker in the early eighteenth century when King Andriamasinavalona divided it among his four sons. Following almost a century of warring and famine, Imerina was reunited in 1793 by King Andrianampoinimerina (1787–1810). From his initial capital Ambohimanga, and later from the Rova of Antananarivo, this Merina king rapidly expanded his rule over neighboring principalities. His ambition to bring the entire island under his control was largely achieved by his son and successor, King Radama I (1810–28), who was recognized by the British government as King of Madagascar.
Radama concluded a treaty in 1817 with the British governor of Mauritius to abolish the lucrative slave trade in return for British military and financial assistance. Artisan missionary envoys from the London Missionary Society began arriving in 1818 and included such key figures as James Cameron, David Jones and David Griffiths, who established schools, transcribed the Malagasy language using the Roman alphabet, translated the Bible, and introduced a variety of new technologies to the island.
Radama’s successor, Queen Ranavalona I (1828–61), responded to increasing political and cultural encroachment on the part of Britain and France by issuing a royal edict prohibiting the practice of Christianity in Madagascar and pressuring most foreigners to leave the territory. Residents of Madagascar could accuse one another of various crimes, including theft, Christianity and especially witchcraft, for which the ordeal of tangena was routinely obligatory. Between 1828 and 1861, the tangena ordeal caused about 3,000 deaths annually. Among those who continued to reside in Imerina were Jean Laborde, an entrepreneur who developed munitions and other industries on behalf of the monarchy, and Joseph-François Lambert, a French adventurer and slave trader, with whom then-Prince Radama II signed a controversial trade agreement termed the Lambert Charter. Succeeding his mother, Radama II (1861–63) attempted to relax the queen’s stringent policies, but was overthrown two years later by Prime Minister Rainivoninahitriniony (1852–1865) and an alliance of Andriana (noble) and Hova (commoner) courtiers, who sought to end the absolute power of the monarch.
Following the coup, the courtiers offered Radama’s queen Rasoherina (1863–68) the opportunity to rule, if she would accept a power sharing arrangement with the Prime Minister — a new social contract that would be sealed by a political marriage between them. Queen Rasoherina accepted, first wedding Rainivoninahitriniony, then later deposing him and wedding his brother, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (1864–95), who would go on to marry Queen Ranavalona II (1868–83) and Queen Ranavalona III (1883–97) in succession.
Over the course of Rainilaiarivony’s 31-year tenure as prime minister, numerous policies were adopted to modernize and consolidate the power of the central government. Schools were constructed throughout the island and attendance was made mandatory. Army organization was improved, and British consultants were employed to train and professionalize soldiers. Polygamy was outlawed and Christianity, declared the official religion of the court in 1869, was adopted alongside traditional beliefs among a growing portion of the populace. Legal codes were reformed on the basis of British common law and three European-style courts were established in the capital city. In his joint role as Commander-in-Chief, Rainilaiarivony also successfully ensured the defense of Madagascar against several French colonial incursions.
The first post offices to be opened in what is now Madagascar were the offices on the French possessions of Nossi-Bé and Sainte Marie de Madagascar in the mid nineteenth century. The first stamps used were the general issues for the French colonies from around 1860. A post office was opened at Diego-Suarez when it became a French possession in 1885.
Primarily on the basis that the Lambert Charter had not been respected, France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War. At the end of the war, Madagascar ceded the northern port town of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) to France and paid 560,000 francs to Lambert’s heirs.
A mail-runner service between Tananarive and the French Post Office at Tamatave was organized by British residents before 1884. It was made official by the British Vice Consul in 1884. It used locally produced stamps between 1884 and 1897 after which stamps were discontinued but the service continued with handstruck marks.
French post offices were opened on the island of Madagascar from 1885, initially using the general issues for the French colonies. Specifically for these offices, the French issued stamps from 1889, surcharging the French colonies general issues with a new face value. In 1891, a set was issued with a local design and printing. Further overprints on stamps of France followed in 1895, the overprint reading Poste Française Madagascar. Provisional stamps were also issued in 1895 by the postmaster of Majunga — French stamps overprinted with a new face value.
In 1890, the British accepted the full formal imposition of a French protectorate on the island, but French authority was not acknowledged by the government of Madagascar. To force capitulation, the French bombarded and occupied the harbor of Toamasina on the east coast, and Mahajanga on the west coast, in December 1894 and January 1895 respectively.
A French military flying column then marched toward Antananarivo, losing many men to malaria and other diseases. Reinforcements came from Algeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Upon reaching the city in September 1895, the column bombarded the royal palace with heavy artillery, causing heavy casualties and leading Queen Ranavalona III to surrender. France annexed Madagascar in 1896 and declared the island a colony the following year, dissolving the Merina monarchy and sending the royal family into exile on Réunion Island and to Algeria. A two-year resistance movement organized in response to the French capture of the royal palace was effectively put down at the end of 1897.
During the French war of occupation the British ran an inland postal service using special stamps between January and September 1895. This was not an official service of the British Post Office.
Under colonial rule, plantations were established for the production of a variety of export crops. Slavery was abolished in 1896 and approximately 500,000 slaves were freed; many remained in their former masters’ homes as servants or as sharecroppers; in many parts of the island strong discriminatory views against slave descendants are still held today. Wide paved boulevards and gathering places were constructed in the capital city of Antananarivo and the Rova palace compound was turned into a museum. Additional schools were built, particularly in rural and coastal areas where the schools of the Merina had not reached. Education became mandatory between the ages of 6 to 13 and focused primarily on French language and practical skills.
The Merina royal tradition of taxes paid in the form of labor was continued under the French and used to construct a railway and roads linking key coastal cities to Antananarivo. Malagasy troops fought for France in World War I. In the 1930s, Nazi political thinkers developed the Madagascar Plan that had identified the island as a potential site for the deportation of Europe’s Jews. Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco, and Syria during World War II. After France fell to the Germans in 1940, the Vichy government administered Madagascar until 1942, when British Empire troops occupied the strategic island in the Battle of Madagascar in order to preclude its seizure by the Japanese. The United Kingdom handed over control of the island to Free French Forces in 1943.
Only in the aftermath of World War II was France willing to accept a form of Malagasy self-rule under French tutelage. In the fall of 1945, separate French and Malagasy electoral colleges voted to elect representatives from Madagascar to the Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in Paris. The two delegates chosen by the Malagasy, Joseph Raseta and Joseph Ravoahangy, both campaigned to implement the ideal of the self-determination of peoples affirmed by the Atlantic Charter of 1941 and by the Brazzaville Conference of 1944.
Raseta and Ravoahangy, together with Jacques Rabemananjara, a writer long resident in Paris, organized the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Restoration (MDRM), the foremost among several political parties formed in Madagascar by early 1946. Although Protestant Merina were well represented in MDRM’s higher echelons, the party’s 300,000 members were drawn from a broad political base reaching across the entire island and crosscutting ethnic and social divisions. Several smaller MDRM rivals included the Party of the Malagasy Disinherited (Parti des Déshérités Malgaches), whose members were mainly côtiers or descendants of slaves from the central highlands.
The 1946 constitution of the French Fourth Republic made Madagascar a territoire d’outre-mer (overseas territory) within the French Union. It accorded full citizenship to all Malagasy parallel with that enjoyed by citizens in France. But the assimilationist policy inherent in its framework was incongruent with the MDRM goal of full independence for Madagascar, so Ravoahangy and Raseta abstained from voting. The two delegates also objected to the separate French and Malagasy electoral colleges, even though Madagascar was represented in the French National Assembly. The constitution divided Madagascar administratively into a number of provinces, each of which was to have a locally elected provincial assembly. Not long after, a National Representative Assembly was constituted at Antananarivo. In the first elections for the provincial assemblies, the MDRM won all seats or a majority of seats, except in Mahajanga Province.
Despite these reforms, the political scene in Madagascar remained unstable. Economic and social concerns, including food shortages, black-market scandals, labor conscription, renewed ethnic tensions, and the return of soldiers from France, strained an already volatile situation. Many of the veterans felt they had been less well treated by France than had veterans from metropolitan France; others had been politically radicalized by their wartime experiences. The blend of fear, respect, and emulation on which Franco-Malagasy relations had been based seemed at an end.
On March 29, 1947, Malagasy nationalists revolted against the French. Although the uprising eventually spread over one-third of the island, the French were able to restore order after reinforcements arrived from France. Casualties among the Malagasy were estimated in the 11,000 to 80,000 range. The group of leaders responsible for the uprising, which came to be referred to as the Revolt of 1947, never has been identified conclusively. Although the MDRM leadership consistently maintained its innocence, the French outlawed the party. French military courts tried the military leaders of the revolt and executed twenty of them. Other trials produced, by one report, some 5,000 to 6,000 convictions, and penalties ranged from brief imprisonment to death.
In 1956, France’s socialist government renewed the French commitment to greater autonomy in Madagascar and other colonial possessions by enacting the loi-cadre (enabling law). The loi-cadre provided for universal suffrage and was the basis for parliamentary government in each colony. In the case of Madagascar, the law established executive councils to function alongside provincial and national assemblies, and dissolved the separate electoral colleges for the French and Malagasy groups. The provision for universal suffrage had significant implications in Madagascar because of the basic ethnopolitical split between the Merina and the côtiers, reinforced by the divisions between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Superior armed strength and educational and cultural advantages had given the Merina a dominant influence on the political process during much of the country’s history. The Merina were heavily represented in the Malagasy component of the small elite to whom suffrage had been restricted in the earlier years of French rule. Now the côtiers, who outnumbered the Merina, would be a majority.
The end of the 1950s was marked by growing debate over the future of Madagascar’s relationship with France. Two major political parties emerged. The newly created Democratic Social Party of Madagascar (Parti Social Démocrate de Madagascar – PSD) favored self-rule while maintaining close ties with France. The PSD was led by Philibert Tsiranana, a well-educated Tsimihety from the northern coastal region who was one of three Malagasy deputies elected in 1956 to the National Assembly in Paris. The PSD built upon Tsiranana’s traditional political stronghold of Mahajanga in northwest Madagascar and rapidly extended its sources of support by absorbing most of the smaller parties that had been organized by the côtiers. In sharp contrast, those advocating complete independence from France came together under the auspices of the Congress Party for the Independence of Madagascar (Antokon’ny Kongresy Fanafahana an’i Madagasikara – AKFM). Primarily based in Antananarivo and Antsiranana, party support centered among the Merina under the leadership of Richard Andriamanjato, himself a Merina and a member of the Protestant clergy. To the consternation of French policy makers, the AKFM platform called for nationalization of foreign-owned industries, collectivization of land, the “Malagachization” of society away from French values and customs (most notably use of the French language), international nonalignment, and exit from the Franc Zone.
After France adopted the Constitution of the Fifth Republic under the leadership of General Charles de Gaulle, on September 28, 1958, a referendum was held in the Colony of Madagascar to determine whether the country should become a self-governing republic within the French Community. The AKFM and other nationalists opposed to the concept of limited self-rule mustered about 25 percent of votes cast. The vast majority of the population at the urging of the PSD leadership voted in favor of the referendum. The vote led to the election of Tsiranana as the country’s first president on April 27, 1959. After a year of negotiations between Tsiranana and his French counterparts, Madagascar’s status as a self-governing republic officially was altered on June 26, 1960, to that of a fully independent and sovereign state. The cornerstone of Tsiranana’s government was the signing with France of fourteen agreements and conventions designed to maintain and strengthen Franco-Malagasy ties. These agreements were to provide the basis for increasing opposition from Tsiranana’s critics.
A spirit of political reconciliation prevailed in the early 1960s. By achieving independence and obtaining the release of the MDRM leaders detained since the Revolt of 1947, Tsiranana had coopted the chief issues on which the more aggressively nationalist elements had built much of their support. Consistent with Tsiranana’s firm commitment to remain attached to Western civilization, the new regime made plain its intent to maintain strong ties to France and the West in the economic, defense, and cultural spheres. Not entirely sanguine about this prospect, the opposition initially concurred in the interest of consolidating the gains of the previous decade, and most ethnic and regional interests supported Tsiranana.
Similar to other African leaders during the immediate independence era, Tsiranana oversaw the consolidation of his own party’s power at the expense of other parties. A political system that strongly favored the incumbent complemented these actions. For example, although the political process allowed minority parties to participate, the constitution mandated a winner-take-all system that effectively denied the opposition a voice in governance. Tsiranana’s position was further strengthened by the broad, multiethnic popular base of the PSD among the côtiers, whereas the opposition was severely disorganized. The AKFM continued to experience intraparty rifts between leftist and ultranationalist, more orthodox Marxist factions; it was unable to capitalize on increasingly active but relatively less privileged Malagasy youth because the party’s base was the Merina middle class.
A new force on the political scene provided the first serious challenge to the Tsiranana government in April 1971. The National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar (Mouvement National pour l’Indépendance de Madagascar – Monima) led a peasant uprising in Toliara Province. The creator and leader of Monima was Monja Jaona, a côtier from the south who also participated in the Revolt of 1947. The main issue was government pressure for tax collection at a time when local cattle herds were being ravaged by disease. The protesters attacked military and administrative centers in the area, apparently hoping for support in the form of weapons and reinforcements from China. Such help never arrived, and the revolt was harshly and quickly suppressed. An estimated fifty to 1,000 persons died, Monima was dissolved, and Monima leaders, including Jaona and several hundred protesters, were arrested and deported to the island of Nosy Lava.
Another movement came on the scene in early 1972, in the form of student protests in Antananarivo. A general strike involving the nation’s roughly 100,000 secondary-level students focused on three principal issues: ending the cultural cooperation agreements with France; replacing educational programs designed for schools in France and taught by French teachers with programs emphasizing Malagasy life and culture and taught by Malagasy instructors; and increasing access for economically underprivileged youth to secondary-level institutions. By early May, the PSD sought to end the student strike at any cost; on May 12 and 13, the government arrested several hundred student leaders and sent them to Nosy Lava. Authorities also closed the schools and banned demonstrations.
Mounting economic stagnation — as revealed in scarcities of investment capital, a general decline in living standards, and the failure to meet even modest development goals — further undermined the government’s position. Forces unleashed by the growing economic crisis combined with student unrest to create an opposition alliance. Workers, public servants, peasants, and many unemployed urban youth of Antananarivo joined the student strike, which spread to the provinces. Protesters set fire to the town hall and to the offices of a French-language newspaper in the capital.
The turning point occurred on May 13, 1972, when the Republican Security Force (Force Républicaine de Sécurité — FRS) opened fire on the rioters; in the ensuing melee between fifteen and forty persons were killed and about 150 injured. Tsiranana declared a state of national emergency and on May 18 dissolved his government, effectively ending the First Republic. He then turned over full power to the National Army under the command of General Gabriel Ramanantsoa, a politically conservative Merina and former career officer in the French army. The National Army had maintained strict political neutrality in the crisis, and its intervention to restore order was welcomed by protesters and opposition elements.
The Ramanantsoa military regime could not resolve rising economic and ethnic problems, and narrowly survived an attempted coup d’état on December 31, 1974. The fact that the coup was led by several côtier officers against a Merina military leader underscored the growing Merina/côtier polarization in the military. In an attempt at restoring unity, Ramanantsoa, on February 5, 1975, turned over power to Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava (a Merina with a less “aristocratic” background). Five days later, Ratsimandrava was assassinated, and a National Military Directorate was formed to restore order by declaring martial law, strictly censoring political expression, and suspending all political parties.
The political transition crisis was resolved on June 15, 1975, when the National Military Directorate selected Lieutenant Commander Didier Ratsiraka as head of state and president of a new ruling body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC). The choice of Ratsiraka allayed ethnic concerns because he was a côtier belonging to the Betsimisaraka ethnic group. In addition, Ratsiraka — a dedicated socialist — was perceived by his military peers as a consensus candidate capable of forging unity among the various leftist political parties (such as AKFM and Monima), students, urban workers, the peasantry, and the armed forces.
Didier Ratsiraka was elected to a seven-year term as president in a national referendum on December 21, 1975, confirming the mandate for consensus and inaugurating Madagascar’s Second Republic. The guiding principle of Ratsiraka’s administration was the need for a socialist “revolution from above.” Specifically, he sought to radically change Malagasy society in accordance with programs and principles incorporated into the Charter of the Malagasy Socialist Revolution, popularly referred to as the “Red Book” (Boky Mena). According to this document, the primary goal of the newly renamed Democratic Republic of Madagascar (Repoblika Demokratika Malagasy) was to build a “new society” founded on socialist principles and guided by the actions of the “five pillars of the revolution”: the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), peasants and workers, young intellectuals, women, and the Popular Armed Forces. “The socialist revolution,” explains the Red Book, “is the only choice possible for us in order to achieve rapid economic and cultural development in an autonomous, humane, and harmonious manner.” The Red Book advocated a new foreign policy based on the principle of nonalignment, and domestic policies focused on renovating the fokonolona, decentralizing the administration, and fomenting economic development through rigorous planning and popular input.
Several early policies collectively decided by Ratsiraka and other members of the SRC set the tone of the revolution from above. The first major SRC decision was to bring the French-held sectors of the economy under government control. This “economic decolonization” was welcomed by nationalists, who long had clamored for economic and cultural independence from France. The government also lifted martial law but retained rigid press censorship. Finally, the SRC ordered the closure of an earth satellite tracking station operated by the United States as part of its commitment to nonaligned foreign relations.
Political consolidation proceeded apace following the addition of ten civilians to the SRC in January 1976. This act constituted the beginning of a civil-military partnership in that the SRC became more representative of the country’s major political tendencies and ethnic communities. In March the Vanguard of the Malagasy Revolution (Antokin’ny Revolisiona Malagasy — Arema) was founded as the government party, and Ratsiraka became its secretary general. In sharp contrast to the one-party states created by other African Marxist leaders, Arema served as simply one (albeit the most powerful) member of a coalition of six parties united under the umbrella of the National Front for the Defense of the Revolution (Front National pour la Défense de la Révolution – FNDR). Membership in the FNDR, necessary for participation in the electoral process, was preconditioned on party endorsement of the revolutionary principles and programs contained in the Red Book.
Ratsiraka and Arema clearly dominated the political system. In the fokonolona elections held in March 1977, for example, Arema captured 90 percent of 73,000 contested seats in 11,400 assemblies. In June 1977, Arema won 220 out of a total of 232 seats in elections for six provincial general assemblies, and 112 out of a total of 137 seats in the Popular National Assembly. This trend toward consolidation was most vividly demonstrated by Rasiraka’s announcement of his 1977 cabinet in which Arema members held sixteen of eighteen ministerial posts.
Yet, less than three years after taking power, Ratsiraka’s regime was confronted with growing popular disenchantment. As early as September 1977, anti-government demonstrations erupted in Antananarivo because of severe shortages in foodstuffs and essential commodities. This trend intensified as the economy worsened under the weight of ill-conceived economic policies that gradually centralized government control over the key sectors of the economy, including banking and agriculture. Ratsiraka defiantly adopted authoritarian tactics in response to the evolving opposition, sending in the armed forces to stifle dissent and maintain order during student riots in May 1978. In the economic realm, however, Ratsiraka accepted the free-market reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to ensure an infusion of foreign assistance vital to keeping the economy functioning. Whereas Ratsiraka’s drift toward authoritarianism provided his enemies with political cannon fodder, his economic reforms led them to charge him with abandoning “scientific socialism” and alienated his traditional base of political supporters as well.
The results of presidential elections within the de facto one-party framework that prevailed throughout the Second Republic clearly demonstrated Ratsiraka’s declining political fortunes. Widespread initial enthusiasm for his socialist revolution from above secured him nearly 96 percent of the popular vote in the 1975 constitutional referendum, but support declined to 80 percent in 1982 and to only 63 percent in 1989. The year of 1989 marked a special turning point in that the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded the intellectual death of one-party rule in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and similarly transformed electoral politics in Africa. In the case of Madagascar, increasingly vocal opposition parties denounced what they and international observers considered massive fraud in the 1989 presidential election, including Ratsiraka’s refusal to update outdated voting lists that excluded the anti-Ratsiraka youth vote and the stuffing of ballot boxes at unmonitored rural polling stations. Massive demonstrations against Ratsiraka’s inauguration led to violent clashes in Antananarivo that, according to official figures, left seventy-five dead and wounded.
Popular discontent with the Ratsiraka regime heightened on August 10, 1991, when more than 400,000 citizens marched peacefully on the President’s Palace in order to oust the Ratsiraka government and create a new multi-party political system. Ratsiraka already faced an economy crippled by a general strike that had begun in May, as well as a divided and restless military whose loyalty no longer could be assumed. When the Presidential Guard opened fire on the marchers and killed and wounded hundreds, a crisis of leadership occurred.
The net result of these events was Ratsiraka’s agreement on October 31, 1991, to support a process of democratic transition, complete with the formulation of a new constitution and the holding of free and fair multiparty elections. Albert Zafy, the central leader of the opposition forces and a côtier of the Tsimihety ethnic group, played a critical role in this transition process and ultimately emerged as the first president of Madagascar’s Third Republic. The leader of the Comité des Forces Vives (Vital Forces Committee, known as Forces Vives), an umbrella opposition group composed of sixteen political parties that spearheaded the 1991 demonstrations, Zafy also emerged as the head of what became known as the High State Authority, a transitional government that shared power with the Ratsiraka regime during the democratization process.
A new draft constitution was approved by 75 percent of those voting in a national referendum on August 19, 1992. The first round of presidential elections followed on November 25. Frontrunner Albert Zafy won 46 percent of the popular vote as the Forces Vives candidate, and Didier Ratsiraka, as leader of his own newly created progovernment front, the Militant Movement for Malagasy Socialism (Mouvement Militant pour le Socialisme Malgache — MMSM), won approximately 29 percent of the vote. The remaining votes were split among a variety of other candidates. Because neither candidate obtained a majority of the votes cast, a second round of elections between the two frontrunners was held on February 10, 1993. Zafy emerged victorious with nearly 67 percent of the popular vote.
The Third Republic officially was inaugurated on March 27, 1993, when Zafy was sworn in as president. The victory of the Forces Vives was further consolidated in elections held on June 13, 1993, for 138 seats in the newly created National Assembly. Voters turned out in low numbers (roughly 30 to 40 percent abstained) because they were being called upon to vote for the fourth time in less than a year. The Forces Vives and other allied parties won seventy-five seats. This coalition gave Zafy a clear majority and enabled him to choose Francisque Ravony of the Forces Vives as prime minister.
By the latter half of 1994, the heady optimism that accompanied this dramatic transition process had declined somewhat as the newly elected democratic government found itself confronted with numerous economic and political obstacles. Adding to these woes was the relatively minor but nonetheless embarrassing political problem of Ratsiraka’s refusal to vacate the President’s Palace. The Zafy regime has found itself under increasing economic pressure from the IMF and foreign donors to implement market reforms, such as cutting budget deficits and a bloated civil service, that do little to respond to the economic problems facing the majority of Madagascar’s population. Zafy also confronted growing divisions within his ruling coalition, as well as opposition groups commonly referred to as “federalists” seeking greater power for the provinces (known as “faritany“) under a more decentralized government. Although spurred by the desire of anti-Zafy forces to gain greater control over local affairs, historically Madagascar has witnessed a tension between domination by the central highlanders and pressures from residents of outlying areas to manage their own affairs. In short, the Zafy regime faced the dilemma of using relatively untested political structures and “rules of the game” to resolve numerous issues of governance.
Albert Zafy was consequently impeached in 1996, and an interim president, Norbert Ratsirahonana, was appointed for the three months prior to the next presidential election. Didier Ratsiraka was then voted back into power on a platform of decentralization and economic reforms for a second term which lasted from 1996 to 2001.
The contested 2001 presidential elections in which then-mayor of Antananarivo, Marc Ravalomanana, eventually emerged victorious, caused a seven-month standoff in 2002 between supporters of Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka. The negative economic impact of the political crisis was gradually overcome by Ravalomanana’s progressive economic and political policies, which encouraged investments in education and ecotourism, facilitated foreign direct investment, and cultivated trading partnerships both regionally and internationally. National GDP grew at an average rate of seven percent per year under his administration. In the later half of his second term, Ravalomanana was criticized by domestic and international observers who accused him of increasing authoritarianism and corruption.
Opposition leader and then-mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, led a movement in early 2009 in which Ravalomanana was pushed from power in an unconstitutional process widely condemned as a coup d’état. In March 2009, Rajoelina was declared by the Supreme Court as the President of the High Transitional Authority, an interim governing body responsible for moving the country toward presidential elections. In 2010, a new constitution was adopted by referendum, establishing a Fourth Republic, which sustained the democratic, multi-party structure established in the previous constitution.
The High Transitional Authority (Haute Autorité de Transition or HAT) was a provisional executive body that came to power in Madagascar following the coup that forced Marc Ravalomanana to leave the country on March 17, 2009, as a result of the 2009 Malagasy protests. It was headed by Andry Rajoelina, who appointed members to the body weeks prior to the handing of executive authority from Ravalomanana to the military, which subsequently gave the authority over to the High Transitional Authority. The HAT was primarily dominated by members of Determined Malagasy Youth, Rajoelina’s party.
On September 17, 2011, a “Roadmap for Ending the Crisis in Madagascar,” was signed by opposition leaders that was backed by the Southern African Development Community, or SADC. This resolution aimed at creating a stable government once more, and ending the political crisis that endured in Madagascar. The HAT repeatedly rescheduled the general election, which was held on December 20, 2013, following a first round of presidential elections on October 25. The presidential elections in December were a runoff between Jean Louis Robinson and Hery Rajaonarimampianina, the top two candidates to emerge from the first round of voting in October. The official results of the second round were announced on January 7, 2014, with Rajaonarimampianina proclaimed the victor with nearly 54% of the vote. This election ended the HAT and restored a regular constitutional government in Madagascar.
Scott #322 was released on December 9, 1961, by the Republic of Malagasy as part of a set of six (three general issue stamps and three for air post) depicting lemurs. The four-franc denomination, engraved on unwatermarked paper and printed in brown, green and black is perforated 13. It portrays a black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata), a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. The word lemur derives from the word lemures (ghosts or spirits) from Roman mythology and was first used to describe a slender loris due to its nocturnal habits and slow pace, but was later applied to the primates on Madagascar. As with other strepsirrhine primates, such as lorises, pottos, and galagos (bush babies), lemurs share resemblance with basal primates. In this regard, lemurs are often confused with ancestral primates, when in actuality, lemurs did not give rise to monkeys and apes, but evolved independently.
Due to Madagascar’s highly seasonal climate, lemur evolution has produced a level of species diversity rivaling that of any other primate group. Until shortly after humans arrived on the island around 2,000 years ago, there were lemurs as large as a male gorilla. Today, there are nearly 100 species of lemurs, and most of those species have been discovered or promoted to full species status since the 1990s; however, lemur taxonomic classification is controversial and depends on which species concept is used. Even the higher-level taxonomy is disputed, with some experts preferring to place most lemurs within the infraorder Lemuriformes, while others prefer Lemuriformes to contain all living strepsirrhines, placing all lemurs in superfamily Lemuroidea and all lorises and galagos in the superfamily Lorisoidea.
The ruffed lemurs of the genus Varecia are strepsirrhine primates and the largest extant lemurs within the family Lemuridae. Like all living lemurs, they are found only on the island of Madagascar. Formerly considered to be a monotypic genus, two species are now recognized: the black-and-white ruffed lemur, with its three subspecies, and the red ruffed lemur.
Ruffed lemurs are diurnal and arboreal quadrupeds, often observed leaping through the upper canopy of the seasonal tropical rainforests in eastern Madagascar. They are also the most frugivorous of the Malagasy lemurs, and they are very sensitive to habitat disturbance. Ruffed lemurs live in multi-male/multi-female groups and have a complex and flexible social structure, described as fission-fusion. They are highly vocal, and have loud, raucous calls.
Ruffed lemurs are seasonal breeders and highly unusual in their reproductive strategy. They are considered an “evolutionary enigma” in that they are the largest of the extant species in Lemuridae, yet exhibit reproductive traits more common in small, nocturnal lemurs, such as short gestation periods (~102 days) and relatively large average litter sizes (~2–3). Ruffed lemurs also build nests for their newborns (the only primates that do so), carry them by mouth, and exhibit an absentee parental system by stashing them while they forage. Infants are altricial, although they develop relatively quickly, traveling independently in the wild after 70 days and attaining full adult size by six months.
Threatened by habitat loss and hunting, ruffed lemurs are facing extinction in the wild. However, they reproduce readily in captivity, and have been gradually re-introduced into the wild since 1997. Organizations that are involved in ruffed lemur conservation include the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF), the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG), Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary in South Africa, Wildlife Trust, and the Duke Lemur Center (DLC).
The black-and-white ruffed lemur is a Critically Endangered species of ruffed lemur, the more endangered one of two which are endemic to Madagascar. Despite having a larger range than the red ruffed lemur, it has a much smaller population that is spread out, living in lower population densities and reproductively isolated. It also has less coverage and protection in large national parks than the red ruffed lemur. Three subspecies of black-and-white ruffed lemur have been recognized since the red ruffed lemur was elevated to species status in 2001.
Together with the red ruffed lemur, they are the largest extant members of the family Lemuridae, ranging in length from 3.3 to 3.9 feet (100 to 120 centimeters) and weighing between 6.8 and 9 pounds (3.1 and 4.1 kilograms). They are arboreal, spending most of their time in the high canopy of the seasonal rainforests on the eastern side of the island. They are also diurnal, active exclusively in daylight hours. Quadrupedal locomotion is preferred in the trees and on the ground, and suspensory behavior is seen during feeding. As the most frugivorous of lemurs, the diet consists mainly of fruit, although nectar and flowers are also favored, followed by leaves and some seeds.
The black-and-white ruffed lemur has a complex social structure and is known for its loud, raucous calls. It is unusual in that it exhibits several reproductive traits typically found in small, nocturnal lemurs, such as short a gestation period, large litters and rapid maturation. In captivity, they can live up to 36 years.