French Colonial Treaty in Madagascar : 18 January 1896

Madagascar
Madagascar

The treaty below with the Queen of Madagascar marked the full possession of Madagascar by France. It also marked the end of the Kingdom of Madagascar, or Merina Kingdom, officially known as Kingdom of Imerina. In essence, Ranavalona III, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar, tried to stave off the French colonization of her land by strengthening trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain throughout her reign; however, French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital city of Antananarivo ultimately led to the capture of the royal palace in 1895, ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom. France officially annexed Madagascar on January 1, 1896.

As you read the treaty below, you could see the beginning of the schemes for the FCFA and the 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa we talked about a while back. Note that Madagascar was banned from dealing directly economically with foreign powers: everything had to go through France… isn’t this a predecessor to the FCFA?

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Ranavalona_III_of_Madagascar
Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

H.E. the Queen of Madagascar, after reading the declaration of possession of the Island of Madagascar by the government of the French Republic, declares to accept the following conditions below:

Article I

The government of the French Republic will be represented to the Queen of Madagascar by a Resident General.

Article II

The government of the French Republic will represent Madagascar in all external relations.

The resident general will be in charge of relations with the agents from foreign powers. Matters of interest to foreigners pertaining to Madagascar will be dealt with by through him.

The diplomatic and consular agents of France in foreign countries will be in charge of the protection of Malagasy subjects and interests.

Article III

The government of the French Republic reserves the right to maintain in Madagascar the military forces necessary for its authority.

Article IV

Ranavalona III conceded defeat to the French in Sept 1895
Ranavalona III conceded defeat to the French in September 1895

The Resident General will control the internal administration of the Island.

H.E. the Queen of Madagascar commits herself to proceed to the reforms that the French government will judge useful for the economic development and the progress of civilization.

Article V

The government of H.E. the Queen of Madagascar is prohibited from contracting any loan without the authorization of the government of the French Republic.

Antananarivo, January 19, 1896

Hoy Ranavalomanjaka III

Mpanjakany Madagascar

Why the name: Antananarivo?

Madagascar
Madagascar

Ever wondered about the meaning of the name Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar? Like: why does the ‘na‘ repeat itself twice (nana)? or whether this ‘nana‘ could mean mother or father or grandmother or grandfather as in many African languages, or ‘girl‘ in French? or could the ‘rivo‘ have something to do with river? or have you simply wondered why such a long name for a capital city?

Flag of Madagascar
Flag of Madagascar

Well, I have often wondered about Antananarivo because of the way its name falls from my mouth as if I was in a hurry, and then being rushed to say it quickly so as not to stumble. I have also wondered about its name, because it reminds me of the beauty of its country, Madagascar, the big island. Moreover, numerous neighborhoods in Cameroon have been renamed after the country because of its beauty and also I imagine, by respect for its people’s struggle for independence which was similar for the people of Cameroon.

Antananarivo in 1905
Antananarivo in 1905

The name Antananarivo means “the City of Thousand” with an meaning ‘to‘ or ‘at‘, tanan meaning ‘city‘, and (a)rivo meaning ‘thousand‘. Some think the ‘thousand’ is in reference to ‘thousand hills‘ or ‘thousand soldiers‘ in reference to the important royal Merina guard. In reality, Antananarivo was the site of a town called Analamanga, meaning ‘Blue Forest‘ in Malagasy. Analamanga was founded by the Vazimba people, the island’s first occupants. When King Andrianjaka of the Merina people moved into the area between 1610 and 1625, he deployed a garrison of 1,000 soldiers to successfully capture the city and guard the site. Declaring it his capital, Andrianjaka built a rova (fortified royal dwelling) that expanded to become the royal palaces of the Kingdom of Imerina. The site maintained its name Analamanga until it was renamed almost fifty years later by King Andriamasinavalona as Antananarivo, “City of the Thousand“, in honor of King Andrianjaka’s soldiers. People of Madagascar affectionately call it “Tana“, the city, and its named was frenchified during colonial time into Tananarive.

Manjakamiadana, the Royal compound built for Queen Ranavalona I
Manjakamiadana, the Royal compound built for Queen Ranavalona I

The city was first built as a fortress by the Merina Kings at the beginning of the 17th century, who made it the capital of the united Kingdom of Imerina in 1794. The community grew rapidly under the Merina Kings, and particularly under King Radama I whose control ultimately extended over a major part of the island, leading him to be considered the King of Madagascar by European diplomats, with Antananarivo as the island’s capital. Antananarivo remained the island’s capital after Madagascar was colonized by the French in 1897 , after the French military invaded Antananarivo on September 1894 causing major casualties amongst the Malagasy people, and causing queen Ranavalona III to surrender. Claiming the island as a colony, the French administration retained Antananarivo as its capital and transcribed its name as Tananarive. Antananarivo remained the capital of Madagascar after independence in 1960.

Antananarivo (Wikipedia)
Antananarivo today (Wikipedia)

Today, Antananarivo is a vibrant city full of life, culture, and immense history. The city’s skyline is dominated by the rova of Antananarivo, which was destroyed in a 1995 fire but is under reconstruction. The nearby Andafiavaratra Palace was the home of 19th century Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony and currently contains a museum featuring historic artifacts of the Kingdom of Imerina. Downhill from the palaces is Andohalo square, where Merina kings and queens delivered speeches to the public.  Tsimbazaza Zoo displays many of the island’s unique animal species and a complete skeleton of the now-extinct elephant bird. Other historic buildings include the Ambatondrafandrana tribunal where Ranavalona I dispensed judgement, the second residence of Rainilaiarivony with its indigenous medicinal plant garden, the recently renovated Soarano railroad station, four late 19th century memorial churches built to commemorate early Malagasy Christian martyrs, the tomb of Prime Minister Rainiharo, and the early 20th century pavilions of the Analakely market. Enjoy the video below, and if you are ever in Madagascar, please do visit the beautiful Tana, the capital of the great Merina Kings, named to celebrate a thousand courageous soldiers and the beautiful hills of the central highlands.