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If the tricolor, the national anthem and the Constitution are the first symbols of the Republic, Madagascar, Independence and national sovereignty are especially the Army composed of “miaramila”, which have common needs.
Under Andrianampoinimerina, the idea of ​​creating an organized body in which to regroup the soldiers is barely sketched out and it is only if they have a name, the lahindefona, men with spear. Once the war is over, these fighters go home.
Father Callet, in his “Tantara ny Andriana eto Madagascar”, reports an anecdote about this. One day, after a brilliant victory, Andrianampoinimerina asks his “lahindefona” what is sweetest (mamy) for them. And these answer: “To do your will, sir! “
“Do not hide the truth from me,” replied the sovereign, no doubt guessing that they were saying this to please him. “What is most dear to you now is to go back to your wives and children, for it is sweet to go home” (mamy ny mody).
His son and successor, Radama I, began the real organization of the troop corps which, from that date, took the name “soridany”, then that of “miaramila”.
He begins by recruiting, in addition to simple soldiers enlisted as in the time of his father,
100 men taken from the rich class he has earned serious instruction and for which he creates ranks. Namely a general troop leader (10 honors) who has under him three senior officers (9, 8 and 7 honors). The 6 honors are chiefs of a centuria and each under his orders, a 5 honors and five honors who respectively command 20 men. These seven officers are called “fito lahy miandry zato” (seven men commanding one hundred).
These first thousand educated soldiers made their debut at Maharivo, where, notwithstanding a considerable number of deaths due to hunger, they deserved well from their king. On his return, Radama, encouraged by the trial, instructed thirteen thousand new recruits whom he took in the six territories of the Imerina, with the exception of the Vakinankaratra, and whom he had instructed at Isahafa by the English Brady and Carren and the French Robin “(Régis Rajemisa-Raolison,” Geographical and Historical Dictionary of Madagascar “).
The young king also translates the formulas of military command into Malagasy and establishes a parallel between the European and merina military ranks. For example, the rank of 2nd class equals an honor and so on until the 12 honors, marshal.
Radama appreciates his soldiers and especially, he counts on them. He is the first to call them “tandroky ny fanjakana”, or “hidy sy rakotry ny tany”, or “tandroka aron’ny vozona” (protective horns of the neck) ). The sovereign, on the other hand, wants his troops to take the oath to be worthy of the confidence he places in them. Hence the solemn ceremony at Isahafa, where the soldiers all promise not to retreat. “Whoever turns his back on the enemy, perishes alive by fire! “
Thereafter, evidence is given that this oath does not remain a dead letter or vain word. During the expedition to the sihanaka country, a few men whose general himself, Andriankotonavalona, ​​simulated a retreat – “which was not considered strategic” – before an enemy who has the advantage of numbers. They are burned alive.
Radama I dreamed, day by day, of perfecting his army, to the smallest external details.
In 1823, after the second Menabe expedition, he ordered all the soldiers to have their hair cut, for at that time the men had as long hair as the women. This especially troubles the wives, accustomed to see their husbands with long hair. They hold a meeting at Ambatoroka and delegate some of them to protest with the king. The latter, far from bending, threatened to kill the leader of the mutiny.
Father Callet, in his book, reports two versions of this incident, one of which announces the killing for the leader and imprisonment for the most virulent of the demonstrators.