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Upon arriving on the throne of Imerina in 1810, the young Prince Laidama soon realized that it was easier to conquer than to govern. Indeed, it can without too much difficulty traverse with a large and disciplined army the sakalava countries and force the kings to an apparent submission.
For, according to Jean Valette, archivist palaeograph, these kings are only yielding to the action of force.
“Radama realized, moreover, that he would have to make this force permanent so that the promises made to him would become realities. It is not possible for him to envisage a military occupation of the subjugated regions, owing to the insufficiency of the Merina population, exhausted by thirty years of incessant wars.
To prevent this impotence from occupying all the conquered lands, the king comes to the idea of ​​disarming the populations who recognize his sovereignty. It is a difficult undertaking because such a measure is “too contrary to the customs of the Malagasy”, especially the Sakalava so that he can think of doing it by persuasions. “To try to achieve it by force was to recommence the war. Caught in the trap of the logic of his policy, Radama had to take the latter part. “
From the first days of January 1825, he sent several thousand soldiers and civilians to
Set up garrisons and build villages in sakalava country. These localities must be appropriately spaced to establish an easy line of communication between Antananarivo and the important points of Boina (Boeny) and Menabe.
He also wants to make them model settlements designed to attract indigenous people who would become accustomed to living with the Merina. And as Ellis writes, they would accustom themselves “to seek their welfare in agriculture and not in rapine, and to recognize the advantages of a more sophisticated social state than that to which they were accustomed “.
This “wise and fertile idea” already proves its worth in Betsimisaraka country. But in the case of the Sakalava, the troops also have the mission to disarm all the Menabe and “this enterprise is big of storms and perils”.
The first attempts made in March 1825 put the country on fire. Instead of obeying and delivering the guns demanded by Radama, the Sakalava of Menabe themselves take up arms and force themselves against the newly-installed garrisons. Though superior in numbers, the insurgents massacred them, then plundered.
According to Guillain, Ramitraho, while seeming to adhere to the wishes of his son-in-law, is the instigator of this revolt and sends emissaries to Andriantsoly to engage him to shake also the yoke merina. Thus, at the very moment when the Sakalava of Menabe crush the Merina confined in their region, those of the Boina slaughter the soldiers of the post of Anfihaonana which guards Andriantsoly and besiege Ramanetaka in Mahajanga. As soon as the news of these events reaches Antananarivo, Radama immediately takes the necessary measures to destroy the action of the insurgents.
In May, Rainimaka, the king’s trustworthy man, who is also very popular among the Sakalava, leaves the capital by bringing considerable reinforcements to Ramanetaka. At the same time, Rafozehena is sent to the Menabe with new troops. Its destination is the part of the country where Ramitraho resides.
Radama must, in fact, use all his influence and the fear that his army would inspire to put pressure on his father-in-law to deliver his firearms and declare himself “openly” in his favor. “But Ramitraho, whose dispositions were hardly favorable to his son-in-law, constantly evaded himself. After several months of vain research, Rafozehena had to return to Antananarivo, bringing with him the rifles handed to him by some small chiefs.
He will return to the Menabe in May 1826, after the rains, to continue his attempts at disarmament. He still spends several months searching for Ramitraho, but the latter carefully avoids any encounter. Eventually, however, he decided to enter into talks. He proposes to deliver, a few months later, all the arms of his people, “not to a general accompanied by an army, but to some ambassadors sent to receive them.” If this proposal were approved, it would even offer to put a part of it on the spot.
In formulating this proposal, says Jean Valette, Ramitraho has no other
A truce until the arrival of the next rains which would rid him of his enemies.
Radama nevertheless accepts the proposal of his father-in-law and recalls the troops of Rafozehena.