1896: Rainandriamampandry and Prince Ratsimamanga

On this date in 1896, two Malagasy movers and shakers were shot to help cement French colonial control of Madagascar.

Interior Minister Rainandriamampandry

Having conquered the island militarily by 1895, France immediately faced indigenous resistance.

According to Stephen Ellis*

One of the most puzzling and fascinating of all resistance movements is that known as the revolt of the menalamba. It occurred over a wide area of central Madagascar, mostly in the kingdom of Imerina, in the two years following the French invasion of Madagascar in 1895. The most mysterious aspect of the rising has always been the question of who, if anyone, was its leader. The official version, that reported by the French government in Madagascar, was that the movement was inspired or directed by a number of magnates at the old Merina court. The published evidence is so ambiguous as to have obliged every subsequent author to accept this version, although there was considerable doubt expressed as to its truth at that time.

Managing this drumhead tribunal was just-arrived “Resident-General” Joseph Simon Gallieni, who seems to have alit (fresh from an assignment in Indochina) with the certain conviction that examples must be made.

While more wholesale bloodletting was deployed in the field, Gallieni selected some suitably high-profile exemplars from the supine state’s ruling elite — “Ratsimamanga, a nobleman who had been unpopular for many years because of his financial extortions,” says Ellis, and “Rainandriamampandry because … he had no close political friends and might therefore be considered dispensable.”

The convenient loss of the tribunal paperwork, which renders evaluation impossible and colonial motivation suspect, hardly would have been well beside the point. As one periodical in Paris (where Gallieni’s pacification project received enthusiastic greeting) approvingly put it,

As a lesson to the rebels, two great figures who had sided with them, Prince Ratsimamanga and Minister of the Interior Rainandriamampandry have both been tried, convicted and shot, all with such rapidity as to inspire their accomplices to salutary reflections.

Below: Selected photographs of the execution from the University of Southern California Digital Library. Click for larger images.

An aside: Madagascar was also the scene of intensely sectarian competition in the soul-saving business, resulting in an execution-day travesty reported in An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914:

Gallieni gave permission to both the cure of the Antananarivo cathedral and a local French pastor to be with [Rainandriamampandry] during his last hours. But … the two started quarreling almost at once. Gallieni was deeply disturbed by the image of two religious men fighting during “the final minutes of a condemned man.”

* “The Political Elite of Imerina and the Revolt of the Menalamba. The Creation of a Colonial Myth in Madagascar, 1895-1898,” The Journal of African History, vol. 21, no. 2 (1980).

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