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The French observers proposed in 1895 to maintain the hova government which existed in Madagascar and to use it in the aftermath of the expedition, “under penalty of burdening our budget with overwhelming burdens” (A. Martineau).
All that remains for them to do is to find the formula of government which “reconciles the high supremacy which we must exercise in the whole island with the respect of indigenous customs and the titles to our gratitude which certain tribes or tribes may have acquired during countryside “.
According to A. Martineau, the formula is not as complex as it is believed at first sight. “If the power of the Hova sat on the whole island, it would result in the establishment of a French garrison of 2,000 to 3,000 men at Antananarivo; The protectorate would find a sufficient guarantee in this material recognition of our authority. “
However, before reaching this choice of the hova government as the basis of the protectorate, studies are made because, in the Great Island, there exist “10 to 12 distinct tribes, with no other common bond than their subjection to the court of Imerina “.
A. Martineau then wonders whether to keep them under the yoke or to give each autonomy and thus establish several protectorates.
The author then takes the example of the Sakalava. Traditionally, the latter are considered as allies of the French. “They render us, it is said, great services during this war; if the fate of other nations affects us little, at least they ought to benefit from our sympathies. “
It is true that the Sakalava are precious auxiliaries for the French, whose loyalty and devotion deserve to be rewarded. “We must associate them directly with our work of civilization. “
Yet, according to the French residents, this praise is very exaggerated. And if they give up their islands – Nosy Be, Nosy Mitsio, Nosy Faly … – “it is less to put themselves under the protection of the French than to escape without struggle to the authority hova”. And they turn against their protectors when “they have rid them of the Merina!” “
In the 18th century, the Sakalava formed a powerful and homogeneous agglomeration which dominated the Great Island, from the bay of Saint-Augustin to the south, beyond Nosy Be in the North. And “the Hova were their tributaries.” But this vast empire was dismembered as a result of wars of succession to the throne, giving birth to a multitude of small royalties, each one independent.
The Merina took advantage of these divisions to regain their freedom and a few decades later to conquer the island in their turn. “Instead of attacking all the Sakalavas at once, they divided them; While they were making war, they gave peaceful assurances to others: the Romans did not employ any other means of subduing the world. “
Reduced to impotence by the rivalry of their leaders, the Sakalava are unable to unite their forces. So in less than twenty years, they lose the Boeny and part of the Menabe.
In 1895, “most of their chiefs and princes have disappeared; The Hova have suppressed part of the conquest, and those who remain are faithful servants of the queen or live in areas that no one has been able or willing to cross: the Ambongo and part of the Menabe. “
In the eyes of their subjects, they retain a certain prestige, if in reality their authority is reduced to settling the differences which may arise among families or tribes.
“Incapable of an act of energy, they have for the most part accepted the accomplished facts. “
Some even surrendered and sent emissaries to Antananarivo to carry gifts to the sovereign, especially during the annual royal bath festival. Others accept positions and titles for their parents or themselves. The goal of all is to ensure “an inexpensive existence”. “As long as they are allowed to collect a few taxes, other concerns are quickly forgotten. “
This attitude, however, is not widespread, for several Ampanjaka never miss the opportunity to expose their grievances against the Merina and their queen. The latter monopolizes the customs duties and leaves them only incomes insufficient!