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One of the great divisions of the sakalava country, the Menabe- “in which it is usual to encompass the Fiherenena and the Mailaka” (Regis Rajemisa-Raolison) – is an area of ​​ancient civilization.
Two versions are given to explain the origin of the word Menabe. The first would go back before the time of Andriandahifotsy. One of the ancestors of this king, white of Arab origin, would have brought in Toliara (then Tolimaleva), a superb red bull called Menabe. He recommends his son to hang the horns of the animal on his grave at his death. “From that time onwards, the bull became the object of a special worship for the Sakalava, equal to that given to the sovereigns, and that this extent of country was called Menabe. “
The known history of Menabe dates back to the days of Andriamandazoala and especially of his son Andriamisara. The latter established himself as king of Fiherenana, on the banks of the Saint Vincent River. Regarded by the Sakalava as their great ancestor deified after his death, Andriamisara is the object of a cult still alive today. His son and successor on the throne of Fiherenana, Andriandahifotsy, extends his power to the river Mangoky. And by his many struggles against the indigenous people of the region, the Antangondrosy, he is regarded as the true founder of the Sakalava dynasty.
It is in his time that we place the second version of the origin of the word Menabe, “given to the new country he conquered, following the immolation of a red ox, the day before the Decisive battle that he had to win. “
Andriandahifotsy has two sons. The elder, Andriamanetiarivo, founder of the Volamena dynasty, succeeded the kingdom of Menabe; The younger, Andriamandisoarivo, founder of the Maroseranana dynasty, will found, further north, the Kingdom of the Boeny. In Andriamanetiarivo, succeed several kings of Menabe, including Ramitraho.
Of ancestry hova, the latter “is son of king Mikala or Andriantsoarivo, descendant of the Tantsaha of Ambohijanaka, retired to the Sakalava to make fortune at a difficult time to be determined”. Designated by his father to succeed him in 1812, Ramitraho first struggled against his two brothers, Olitasy and Kelisambay. Shortly afterwards he had to support two expeditions of Radama I in 1820 and 1822. The first was disastrous for the merina army, the second ended with his victory over the troops of Ramitraho on 13 June 1822 near the village of Mahabo.
This success is consecrated by the marriage of Radama with Rasalimo, the daughter of King Ramitraho, and by a treaty under which the Hova can trade freely throughout the Menabe.
For the record, Radama sincerely loved Rasalimo; He had two children, a boy, Rabobalahy, and a daughter, Raketaka, whom a party wished to put on the throne at his death in 1828. ” It was for Rasalimo that Radama had the Tranovola, the Silver Palace, built within the precincts of the Rova of Antananarivo.
Tenacious as well as supple and cunning, Ramitraho does not however stand to be defeated in a definitive way. In 1825, he molested by his soldiers the hova colonists sent by Radama in the Menabe. It follows a new merina expedition the same year. Seeing the superiority of the Hova army, Ramitraho seized the opportunity of a skirmish in which one of his nephews was killed, to reject all the fault on his relative and make another gesture of submission to the King of Antananarivo, From which he sends his ambassador. “
But the rancor of Ramitraho against the Merina is not extinguished for all that and had to burst after the death of Radama. Immediately, he allied himself with his brother Kelisambay – who withdrew to Mavohazo, while Olitasy went with Radama to Imerina – to attack the Merina. While his brother lynches these more to the north, Ramitraho attacks with his subjects the colonists merina of the region,. “The battle was very hot” and it was during this revolt for the independence of his territory that Ramitraho died in 1834. According to the sakalava custom, after his death, he was given the name Andriamahatantiarivo.
His son Rainiasa, “wanting to look like an independent king,” 7,000 Hova invade his country again and takes it. He finally places himself “under the protection” of Ranavalona I. A large number of Sakalava will take refuge in Kelisambay, which they elect as king in Tsizimbongy. Refusing the presents brought by the ambassadors of Queen Merina, he again declared war on his troops, which subjected him to two attacks. He repulsed the first without too much expense, but at the second he was opposed by 2,000 men, and his army was routed. Kelisambay fled to the Fiherenana and died there in 1837. Note that the successive expeditions in Sakalava country, cost very dear Merina royalty.