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General resident Joseph Gallieni returns from his inspection of the Malagasy coast in Antananarivo on 10 July. Saluted by the troops with cannon and by the Malagasy authorities with beautiful official speeches, all make a very successful reception. “The one that suited the representative of France,” quotes a chronicler, the correspondent of the Bulletin of the Solidarity Committee.
But what particularly surprised the old settlers was the “spontaneous manifestation” of popular enthusiasm. “General Gallieni was received by the Malagasy as Ranavalona would have been returning to his good city. Not only were the houses flagged, but the people crowded along the path – “down to the roofs” – and beat their hands in cadence, as one must do according to the ceremonial on the passage of the sovereign.
“The most curious fact is, that several miles before reaching Antananarivo, women came from neighboring villages and threw bouquets to the general; In the Imerina, the least wallflower consents to push only if it is devoted to maternal care … It is difficult to attribute these demonstrations to fear alone. “
Indeed, on the itinerary followed by the General, arches of triumph in bananas are erected, united by banners bearing the same inscription: “To General Gallieni the grateful Malagasy people. “
Remembering some resounding executions, some colonists see it as macabre irony. But others understand the meaning of such a sentence, underlines the chronicler.
At that time, the mass of the population, freed slaves, porters, small traders, gained a lot from the arrival of the French. For their part, great persons, those who have embraced the cause of the colonizers, have no repentance either, and some princes of the royal family are even decorated. But above all, believes the correspondent of the Bulletin, “the Malagasy appreciate the grip. A walk in the heart of Tananarive, at the top of the city, is instructive from this point of view: at every step, one meets tragic corners.
He then likes to quote some of these places in order to prove the “grip” of the merina sovereigns beginning with the “expiatory English chapel of Ampamarinana”.
“From the top of the steep rocks, the condemned to death were thrown into a mat; At the foot of the precipice, the soldiers received them on the point of their spells, and the children of the quarter came to play to stone the corpses. “
It also indicates, a little farther on, Ambatotsimahasoaolona, ​​”the rock which does not embellish”, a discreet euphemism which designates the stone where the bodies of the persons executed
“Were delivered to the dogs.”
“And the dogs of Antananarivo, now peaceful beasts persecuted by the police, and punished with the pound, but always as badly fed, came to snatch from the executioner their human food. “
Another notorious site indicated by the chronicler: a swamp with great reeds located in the plain at the bottom of the hill of Antananarivo. It was there that at each advent “the new king drowned those of his parents who had been or might have been his competitors.” They are drowned out of respect because the executioner has no right to shed the blood of such high figures.
“And as the marsh is not deep, they tied a fork around their necks and
Kept the nose under a few centimeters of water. “
According to the correspondent of the Bulletin, such horrors are recent – “they are only twenty-five years old” – and they took place under the “passive eyes” of the English missionaries.
“The memory is still alive in the memory of the people. In a people which has such habits of government, the sudden introduction of ours causes an explosion: the mixture is detonating. Will we finally understand that if men are equal, they are not alike? M. Laroche did not understand it, so Malagasy never had the idea of ​​greeting him when he passed in the street. “