AIRFORCE ROUNDEL MADAGASCAR CLASSIC ROUND STICKER
Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth largest island in the world, and is home to five percent of the world's plant and animal species; more than 80 percent of which are endemic to Madagascar. Most notable are the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three endemic bird families and six endemic baobab species.--------------------Despite its location close to the African continent, the first human settlers of Madagascar appear to have come from Asia, rather than Africa, between 100 and 500 AD. The culture shows the influence of both Africa and Asia. The settlement represented the western-most branch of the great Austronesian expansion. Some of the strongest evidence indicating that the settlers of Madagascar came from this region is linguistic: the Malagasy language belongs to the group of Malayo-Polynesian languages, the rest of which are spoken in the island nations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. The written history of Madagascar begins in the 7th century, when Arabs established trading posts along the northwest coast and first transcribed the Malagasy into the Arabic-based alphabet Sorabe. European contact began in the 1500s, when Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sighted the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India. In 1665, François Caron, the Director General of the newly formed French East India Company, sailed to Madagascar. The Company failed to found a colony on Madagascar but established ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon and Île-de-France (today's Réunion and Mauritius). In the late 17th century, the French established trading posts along the east coast. From about 1774 to 1824, it was a favourite haunt for pirates, including Americans, one of whom brought Malagasy rice to North Carolina. Many European sailors would be shipwrecked on the coasts of the island. The most interesting of these is Robert Drury whose journal is one of the only written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the 18th century.-----------------On October 1, 1776, the natives of Madagascar elected Móric Benovský (Matthew/Maurice/Móritz Benyowsky/Benovsky/Benyowszky) King / Emperor (Ampansacabé) of Madagascar on the Mahevelou plane. Among other things, Maurice introduced Latin script for the Malagasy language. (In the history of Madagascar, the King Andrianampoinimerina (1786–1810) is mentioned as the national unifier—in fact he built upon the efforts of the Ampansacabe Benovský.) Beginning in the 1790s, Merina rulers succeeded in establishing hegemony over the major part of the island, including the coast. In 1817, the Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius concluded a treaty abolishing the slave trade, which had been important in Madagascar's economy. In return, the island received British military and financial assistance. British influence remained strong for several decades, during which the Merina court was converted to Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Anglicanism.-------------------Absolute French control over Madagascar was established by military force in 1895–1896, and in 1896 the French Parliament voted to annex Madagascar. The 103-year-old Merina monarchy ended with the royal family being sent into exile in Algeria. In December 1904, the Russian Baltic Fleet stopped at Diego Suarez for coal and provisions before sailing on to its doomed encounter with the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima. Before leaving port the Russian sailors were required to put ashore the animals they had acquired, including monkeys, boa constrictors and one crocodile.During World War II, Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco, and Syria. Immediately preceding the fall of France, Germany initiated planning to forcibly deport all of Europe's Jews to Madagascar in what was known as the Madagascar Plan. Action on the plan was never begun. After France fell to Germany, the Vichy government administered Madagascar. During the Battle of Madagascar, British troops occupied the strategic island in 1942 to preclude its seizure by the Japanese, after which the Free French took over. In 1947, with French prestige at low ebb, a nationalist uprising was suppressed after several months of bitter fighting with 8,000 persons killed.The French subsequently established reformed institutions in 1956 under the Loi Cadre (Overseas Reform Act), and Madagascar moved peacefully toward independence. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960.------------Madagascar's first President, Philibert Tsiranana, was elected when his Social Democratic Party gained power at independence in 1960 and was reelected without opposition in March 1972. However, he resigned only 2 months later in response to massive antigovernment demonstrations. The unrest continued, and Tsiranana's successor, Gen. Gabriel Ramanantsoa, resigned on February 5, 1975, handing over executive power to Lt. Col. Richard Ratsimandrava, who was assassinated 6 days later. A provisional military directorate then ruled until a new government was formed in June 1975, under dictator Didier Ratsiraka. During the 16 subsequent years of President Ratsiraka's rule, Madagascar continued under a government committed to revolutionary socialism based on the 1975 Constitution establishing a highly centralized state. During this period a strategy of nationalization of private enterprises, centralization of the economy and "Malgasization" of the education system crippled the economy, leaving traces even today of a highly centralized economic system and a high level of illiteracy. National elections in 1982 and 1989 returned Ratsiraka for a second and third 7-year presidential term. For much of this period, only limited and restrained political opposition was tolerated, with no direct criticism of the president permitted in the press. With an easing of restrictions on political expression, beginning in the late 1980s, the Ratsiraka regime came under increasing pressure to make fundamental changes. In response to a deteriorating economy, Ratsiraka relaxed socialist economic policies and instituted some liberal, private-sector reforms. These, along with political reforms like the elimination of press censorship in 1989 and the formation of more political parties in 1990, were insufficient to placate a growing opposition movement known as Hery Velona ("Active Forces"). A number of already existing political parties and their leaders, among them Albert Zafy and Manandafy Rakotonirina, anchored this movement which was especially strong in Antananarivo and the surrounding high plateau. In response to largely peaceful mass demonstrations and crippling general strikes, Ratsiraka replaced his prime minister in August 1991 but suffered an irreparable setback soon thereafter when his troops fired on peaceful demonstrators marching on Iavoloha, the suburban presidential palace, killing more than 30. In an increasingly weakened position, Ratsiraka acceded to negotiations on the formation of a transitional government. The resulting "Panorama Convention" of October 31, 1991, stripped Ratsiraka of nearly all of his powers, created interim institutions, and set an 18-month timetable for completing a transition to a new form of constitutional government. The High Constitutional Court was retained as the ultimate judicial arbiter of the process.-----------------In March 1992, a widely representative National Forum organized by the FFKM (Malagasy Christian Council of Churches) drafted a new Constitution. Troops guarding the proceedings clashed with pro-Ratsiraka "federalists" who tried to disrupt the forum in protest of draft constitutional provisions preventing the incumbent president from running again. The text of the new Constitution was put to a nationwide referendum in August 1992 and approved by a wide margin, despite efforts by federalists to disrupt balloting in several coastal areas.Presidential elections were held on November 25, 1992, after the High Constitutional Court had ruled, over Hery Velona objections, that Ratsiraka could become a candidate. Runoff elections were held in February 1993, and the leader of the Hery Velona movement, Albert Zafy, defeated Ratsiraka. Zafy was sworn in as President on March 27, 1993. After President Zafy's impeachment by the National Assembly in 1996 and the short quasi-presidency of Norbert Ratsirahonana, the 1997 elections once again pitted Zafy and Ratsiraka, with Ratsiraka this time emerging victorious. A National Assembly dominated by members of President Ratsiraka'a political party AREMA subsequently passed the 1998 revised Constitution after a popular referendum. It considerably strengthened the presidency, made impeachments more difficult, and created the autonomous provinces.-----------------In December 2001, a presidential election was held in which both major candidates claimed victory. The Ministry of the Interior declared incumbent Ratsiraka of the AREMA party victorious. Marc Ravalomanana contested the results and claimed victory. A political crisis followed in which Ratsiraka supporters destroyed bridges and cut major transport routes from the primary port city to the capital to isolate the capital city, a stronghold of Ravalomanana support. Sporadic violence and considerable economic disruption continued until July 2002 when Ratsiraka and several of his prominent supporters fled to exile in France. In addition to political differences, ethnic differences played a role in the crisis and continue to play a role in politics. Ratsiraka is from the coastal Betsimisaraka tribe and Ravalomanana comes from the highland Merina tribe. After the end of the 2002 political crisis, President Ravalomanana began many reform projects, forcefully advocating "rapid and durable development" and the launching of a battle against corruption. December 2002 legislative elections gave his newly formed TIM (Tiako-I-Madagasikara) (I Love Madagascar) Party a commanding majority in the National Assembly. November 2003 municipal elections were conducted freely, returning a majority of supporters of the president, but also significant numbers of independent and regional opposition figures. Following the crisis of 2002, the President replaced provincial governors with appointed PDSs (Presidents des Delegations Speciales). Subsequent legislation established a structure of 22 regions to decentralize administration. In September 2004, the Government named 22 Regional Chiefs, reporting directly to the President, to implement its decentralization plans. Financing and specific powers for the regional administrations remain to be clarified. On November 18, 2006 General Fidy supposedly declared a military coup of President Marc Ravalomanana's government though he later denied this action, claiming to have simply openly called for the president to stand down, with no threat of violence.--------------------- The December 3 election since went on without incident, re-electing Ravalomanana with 54.80 percent of the vote. On 4 April 2007, a referendum about a revised Constitution was held. It was approved with 75.33 percent of the votes (24.67 against). There are several major and minor changes in the revised Constitution. Examples: the autonomous provinces are deleted,the term "secular state" (French: état laïque) is removed from the Constitution, three official languages (Malagasy, French and English) are included two in addition to the national language (Malagasy). There were no official languages before the revision. The new Constitution entered into force on 27 April 2007.