Madagascar celebrates its 60th anniversary on Friday, June 26 for its independence. The former French colony experienced a period of very violent oppression before she freed herself from the guidance of France. Six decades later, the island is still seeking emancipation.
Madagascar became an independent state on June 26, 1960, sixty years ago. A few years earlier the country had experienced a rebellion against the settlers. The repression was terrible and caused tens of thousands of deaths.
However, when we look at the French television news from 1960, the reports give the impression that Madagascar’s independence was prepared and continued in peace. In reality, the road to independence was among the bloodiest of all former French colonies.
This ancient kingdom joined the French colonial power in 1896. The colonists then established forced labor. Fifty years later, the great uprising began on March 29, 1947. The rebels attacked Europeans and Malagasy who cooperated with the colonists and caused hundreds of deaths.
The reprisals from the French authorities are terrible. More than 30,000 men are sent to the scene. They carry out summary executions, torture and even village fires. The French army even threw suspects from aircraft to terrorize the population. According to historians, tens of thousands of Madagascans were killed.
“Every morning we were led up the hill, it was the Senegalese scrapers who looked at us and whipped us like a zebus who pulled a trolley. They made us go four on stones by going back and forth, two or three times, scratched our skin. And today I still have scars on my knees and on my back, “said Randriamamonjy, a veteran who refused forced labor.
The rebels are finally forced to surrender to the French authorities. In 2005, during a trip to the island, French President Jacques Chirac of the time talked about this dark episode in history. He talks about the unacceptable nature of the oppressions that the colonial system created.
Eleven years after the uprising, a self-determination referendum was organized in 1958. In the capital, a majority was opposed to independence, but yes, thanks to the voters in the countryside. On June 26, 1960, the old kingdom again became an independent state.
“We are addicted”
Six decades later, the struggle for independence seems to continue. According to historian Lucile Rabeharimanana, the country is still seeking liberation. “We are dependent. In 1960, we were dependent on France’s former colonization power. Now we are dependent, not only on France, but also on the major international financial organizations,” she summed up.
Sixty years after its independence, the challenges for Madagascar are enormous. Poverty, education, health: all visionaries are red. The island is now one of the least developed countries in the world according to the UN.