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#574
Madagascar
Keymaster

In a study of the death of Prince Ratefinanahary (1828), Radama I’s brother-in-law, Jean Valette reviewed the sources of this assassination (see previous note).
Thus Robert Lyall, a British agent in Antananarivo, who addressed correspondence to the governor of Mauritius (1827 to 1830). Georges-Sully Chapus and Gustave Mondain by publishing them, “place at the disposal of historians, for the period under consideration, an extremely important source because emanating from a witness whose use has so far been little used” (Jean Valette). The latter speaks in particular of the murder of Ratefy.
In his letter of September 30, 1828, he wrote that two days earlier Ratefy arrived near the capital. This Sunday, September 28, he plans to climb to Antananarivo and royal soldiers meet him about 100 miles from the capital. “Satisfied with his oath of allegiance, this troop had sent him back to Tamatave, where he had remained almost at liberty. “
Shortly afterwards, he was surrounded by a guard of about 100 men and sent to Angavo or Ambatomanga. Ratefy was then condemned by military law. “But he would have been saved by Rainimahay. This is subject to reservations. “
In his letter of October 16, Robert Lyall returns to the previous days. “Anxious about Poor Ratefy,” to fathom the government, he sent early on October 4 a message to Andriamambavola, requesting him to ask the Queen for permission to visit the unfortunate prince. “They replied that it was vain to make the request, that Ratefy was kept up close and invisible. Robert Lyall can not go any further without danger, for the decision is made to put the prince to death.
Then he returns once more to Sunday, September 28, to bring further and fair information. The majority of ministers and a large number of civil servants travel to a small neighboring village of Ambatomanga where Ratefy is kept as a prisoner in order to make a proper judgment. The prince is condemned, but Rainimahay, against the advice of the officers, does not allow the execution of the sentence before knowing the will of the queen.
On September 29, a large delegation of civilian and military officials is sent from Antananarivo to help with a review of the trial and Ratefy is again convicted. Ranavalona I gives the order to keep him tightly until the people give their opinion in an assembly which is held at Antsahatsiroa, one of the squares of the city.
Rainimahay, as Queen’s spokesperson, rose and opened the debate. “The noise, intense until then, calmed down at once. In a long speech the minister realized that immediately after Radama’s death letters were sent to all military leaders, governors, commanders, etc., and especially to Prince Ratefy- to inform them of the sad event, From the accession of Ranavalona to the throne, from the decision of the queen to abide by the laws of Radama, to keep each one at her post, to treat her collaborators even better than the deceased king did. It also enjoins all “to remain in the posts occupied until new orders are received, to shave their heads as a sign of mourning, by ordering the people to do the same, to receive at last the oath of allegiance of their citizens and soldiers “.
Rainimahay then recalls that, according to the military law in force since Andrianampoinimerina, those who flee from the enemy or abandon their posts without losing, are put in chains as well as all the members of their families and sold as slaves. He adds that before the expedition against the Sakalava four or five years ago a new law was promulgated with the consent of the chiefs in a kabary in the presence of Radama, condemning the flight to the Sakalava, Enemy or abandonment of post to death by fire.
“The principal promoters of this measure had been Ramanetaka, Ramananolona, ​​and especially Ratefy, who had opened the public meeting, and who had not only proposed the law, but had vehemently supported it with all his power. “
The king, says Rainimahay, makes objections by alleging that a courageous soldier can sometimes shrink from the numbers without being guilty of cowardice. But, faced with the resolution of the majority of the highest dignitaries, he consented to the immediate imposition of the death penalty by fire. Rainimahay then established that the law had been in force for several years and that several culprits, officers and soldiers had been burned alive.
“Why should Ratefy, if he were convinced of having broken the proposed law and strongly supported by himself, would not suffer the consequences,” Rainimahay concludes.