International Criminology World

World : Africa : Madagascar

Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Asian and African origin. Recent research suggests that the island was uninhabited until Indonesian seafarers arrived in roughly the first century A.D., probably by way of southern India and East Africa, where they acquired African wives and slaves. Subsequent migrations from both the Pacific and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and 18 separate tribal groups emerged. Asian features are most predominant in the central highlands people, the Merina (3 million) and the Betsileo (2 million); the coastal people are of African origin. The largest coastal groups are the Betsimisaraka (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety and Sakalava (700,000 each).

The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. French also is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony.

Most people practice traditional religions, which tend to emphasize links between the living and the dead. They believe that the dead join their ancestors in the ranks of divinity and that ancestors are intensely concerned with the fate of their living descendants. This spiritual communion is celebrated by the Merina and Betsileo reburial practice of famadihana, or "turning over the dead." In this ritual, relatives' remains are removed from the family tomb, rewrapped in new silk shrouds, and returned to the tomb following festive ceremonies in their honor. About 45% of the Malagasy are Christian, divided almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant. Many incorporate the cult of the dead with their religious beliefs and bless their dead at church before proceeding with the traditional burial rites. They also may invite a pastor to attend a famadihana. A historical rivalry exists between the predominantly Catholic masses, considered to be underprivileged, and the predominantly Protestant Merina aristocrats, who tend to prevail in the civil service, business, and professions. A new policy of decentralizing resources and authority is intended to enhance the development potential of all Madagascar's provinces. Provincial Council members were elected by popular vote in December 2000. In March 2001, the new Provincial Council members joined mayors and communal council members in each province in electing Senators to represent them in the national parliament. Governors were elected by Electoral College in June 2001. Transfer of duties and establishments of budgets are in progress.

The written history of Madagascar began in the seventh century A.D., when Arabs established trading posts along the northwest coast. European contact began in the 1500s, when Portuguese sea captain Diego Dias sighted the island after his ship became separated from a fleet bound for India. In the late 17th century, the French established trading posts along the east coast. From about 1774 to 1824, it was a favorite haunt for pirates, including Americans, one of whom brought Malagasy rice to South Carolina. Beginning in the 1790s, Merina rulers succeeded in establishing hegemony over the major part of the island, including the coast. In 1817, the Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius concluded a treaty abolishing the slave trade, which had been important in Madagascar's economy. In return, the island received British military and financial assistance. British influence remained strong for several decades, during which the Merina court was converted to Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Anglicanism.

The British accepted the imposition of a French protectorate over Madagascar in 1885 in return for eventual control over Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) and as part of an overall definition of spheres of influence in the area. Absolute French control over Madagascar was established by military force in 1895-96, and the Merina monarchy was abolished. Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco, and Syria during World War I. After France fell to the Germans, Madagascar was administered first by the Vichy government and then in 1942 by the British, whose troops occupied the strategic island to preclude its seizure by the Japanese. The Free French received the island from the United Kingdom in 1943. In 1947, with French prestige at low ebb, a nationalist uprising was suppressed only after several months of bitter fighting. The French subsequently established reformed institutions in 1956 under the Loi Cadre (Overseas Reform Act), and Madagascar moved peacefully toward independence. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960.

Madagascar held its second presidential election under the 1992 Constitution in 1996, following the impeachment of then-President Albert Zafy earlier that year. The election was accepted widely as free and fair, and the winner, former Second Republic President Didier Ratsiraka, took office in February 1997. Since 1997 Ratsiraka and his party, the Association for the Rebirth of Madagascar (AREMA), have consolidated power and greatly weakened the previously strong non-AREMA parties. Although power remains formally divided between the President, his Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and a bicameral legislature (Senate and National Assembly), the 1998 revision of the Constitution significantly strengthened the presidency, weakened the National Assembly, and gave the President the power to name one-third of the Senators. Indirect Senate elections held in March, 2001 were considered to be generally free and fair, with mayors and provincial councils electing two-thirds of the new Senators, nearly all from AREMA. In December, 2001, presidential elections were held; however, the results were disputed, and a winner was not named by year's end. Most of the institutions provided for in the revised Constitution, including autonomous provincial governments, were established during the year 2001; however, their organization and funding were unclear at year's end 2001. The judiciary is subject to executive influence.



Madagascar faces no external threat. However, during the 1980s, Madagascar experienced periods of tension with South Africa. Although it had the capabilities to launch an air or amphibious attack, South Africa never threatened Madagascar, largely because it feared international condemnation. After Frederik Willem de Klerk became South Africa's president in 1989, relations between the two countries gradually improved.

Since independence, there have been several internal threats against the Malagasy government. This domestic instability reflected the growing restiveness of opposition elements and popular frustration with the government's inability to resolve the political, economic, and social problems confronting the island. Also, the Malagasy armed forces repeatedly have acted against the government for failing to preserve law and order.

The first serious challenge to the government occurred on April 1-2, 1971, when more than 1,000 armed members of the left wing National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar (Mouvement National pour l'Indépendance de Madagascar--Monima) attacked five military posts in Tuléar Province. Government forces quickly restored order and imprisoned Monima's leader, Monja Jaona. According to a government communiqué, Monima casualties included forty-five killed, nine wounded, and 847 held for questioning while security forces suffered one killed and eleven wounded. According to Jaona, the revolt had been directed against the local administration, which had failed to provide disaster relief to the province after it had experienced a drought, followed by floods caused by cyclones. Also at issue were government pressures for tax collection at a time when local cattle herds were being ravaged by disease.

In early 1972, what began as a student protest against French cultural domination of the island's schools quickly spread to a call for a general strike to protest poor economic conditions. Within days antigovernment protests were occurring in the capital and throughout the provinces. On May 13, 1972, elements from the Republican Security Forces (Forces Républicaines de Sécurité-- FRS) opened fire on a group of rioters in Antananarivo, killing between fifteen and forty and injuring about 150. Additionally, the government declared a state of national emergency. On May 18, 1972, President Philibert Tsiranana dissolved his government and turned over power to the army, under the command of General Gabriel Ramanantsoa. The army, which had remained neutral throughout the general strike, quickly restored order by placing military officers in control of the six provinces and establishing a new, multiethnic cabinet. In November 1972, after a national referendum, Ramanantsoa became the new head of state.

Continued political and economic instability doomed the Ramanantsoa regime. On December 31, 1974, the armed forces launched an unsuccessful coup attempt. On February 5, 1975, Ramanantsoa, hoping to promote political unity, handed over the government to the former minister of interior, Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava. On February 11, 1975, several members of the Mobile Police Group (Groupe Mobile de Police--GMP) assassinated Ratsimandrava. The government responded by declaring martial law, imposing censorship, and suspending political parties. Also, General Gilles Andriamahazo formed the National Military Directorate, consisting of nineteen military officers from all branches of service and from all over the island. On June 15, 1975, Didier Ratsiraka, who had a seat on the National Military Directorate, became head of state and president of the new ruling body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council.

The next major internal threat surfaced in the mid-1980s, when about 6,000 members of various Chinese martial arts Kung-Fu associations battled the Tanora Tonga Saina (TTS), which acted as Ratsiraka's private presidential security force. Problems started in September 1984, after Ratsiraka banned the practice of martial arts, which led to several clashes between Kung-Fu adherents and the TTS. On December 4, 1984, a larger confrontation occurred when Kung-Fu groups attacked TTS headquarters in Behorika, and killed more than 100 TTS members. Kung-Fu demonstrations continued for the next few years. Finally, on July 31, 1986, army units supported by twelve armored cars and helicopters demolished Kung-Fu headquarters in Antananarivo, and killed the movement's leader and about 200 of his followers.

In the early 1990s, cycles of escalating political unrest and increased governmental repression led to at least three failed coup attempts (1989, 1990, and 1992). Additionally, general strike demonstrations organized by a pro-democracy opposition coalition called Forces Vives (Active Forces) occurred in Antananarivo, and several other Malagasy towns. Following the near paralysis of the economy and demonstrations at the presidential palace during which government forces opened fire on civilians, opposition leaders announced the formation of a transitional government of national unity. Eventually, presidential elections, held between November 1992 and February 1993, resulted in a victory for Forces Vives leader Albert Zafy over Ratsiraka.



Madagascar is a very poor country with a population of approximately 15.5 million. The economy relies heavily on agriculture. Shrimp is the leading export. Agricultural exports grew 5.2 percent with vanilla, coffee, cloves, and pepper registering increases. Textiles were another major export. The smuggling of vanilla, gold, and precious stones, and cattle rustling continued to be major concerns. Overall economic performance improved, but nearly three-fourths of the population live in poverty. Living standards are low, with the annual per capita gross domestic product estimated at $264 (approximately 1.8 million FMG). Foreign assistance remains a major source of national income. Inflation dropped from 14.4 percent in 1999 to 8.7 percent in 2000. Unemployment and underemployment, especially among youth, remained high, although there was significant job growth in Antananarivo during the year 2001. The Government made some progress on economic reform, including privatization.



A firm belief in the existence of close ties between the living and the dead constitutes the most basic of all traditional beliefs and the foundation for Malagasy religious and social values. All the Malagasy peoples have traditionally accepted the existence of a supreme God, known commonly as Zanahary (Creator) or Andriamanitra (Sweet, or Fragrant, Lord). The dead have been conceived as playing the role of intermediary between this supreme God and humankind and are viewed as having the power to affect the fortunes of the living for good or evil. The dead are sometimes described as "gods on earth," who are considered the most important and authoritative members of the family, intimately involved in the daily life of the living members. At the same time, the razana (best defined as "ancestors") are the sources from which the life force flows and the creators of Malagasy customs and ways of life. The living are merely temporary extensions of the dead. Great hardship or trouble can result if the dead are offended or neglected.

The burial tomb, a prominent part of the island landscape in all regions, is the primary link between the living and the dead among the Malagasy. It is built with great care and expense, reflecting the privileged position of the dead, and is often more costly and substantial than the houses of the living. The land upon which a family tomb is situated--tanindrazana (land of the ancestors)--is inalienable, and social and economic practices are designed to guarantee that tomb lands are kept within the family. Anthropologists have described the Merina as living, in effect, in two localities: the place where one happens to work and keep one's household, and the tanindrazana, a locality of much deeper sentimental significance, the spiritual center where the family tomb is located. The two are usually separated by a considerable distance. Among some groups, whether one decides to be buried in the tombs of the father's or mother's family determines individual descent-group allegiance.

The tombs of the various peoples around the island differ somewhat in form. Merina tombs tend to be solid, stone structures, built partially underground, with a chamber in which the bodies of ancestors are kept on shelves, wrapped in silk shrouds. The traditional tombs of the Mahafaly in the southwest were built of stone but surmounted by intricately carved wooden posts depicting human and animal figures. More recent Mahafaly tombs, particularly those built by rich families, are often made of concrete, with glass windows, brightly painted designs and often remarkable depictions of airplanes, taxicabs, or other modern paraphernalia mounted on the roof. At one time, it was the custom of the Sakalava people living around the Morondava River on the west coast to decorate their tombs with carvings showing explicit sexual activity. These were meant to illustrate the life-giving force, or fertility, of the ancestors.

Among the Merina and Betsileo peoples of the central highlands, the custom of famadihana ("placing" or the "turning" of the dead) reaffirms the link between the living and the dead. This occurs when a person is taken from a temporary to a permanent tomb in the tanindrazana, and the remains are taken out of the tomb to be wrapped in new shrouds, or when a body is moved from one tomb to another. These ceremonies are costly, mainly because of the expense of providing food for a large number of relatives and guests. They represent for the peoples of the central highlands a time of communion with the razana and a means of avoiding or reducing guilt or blame. It is considered a serious transgression not to hold a famadihana when one is financially able to do so. The ceremony is presided over by an astrologer, but the chief participants are the close relatives of those persons whose remains are being moved or rewrapped. In this regard, the famadihana resembles in spirit a family reunion or the more austere ancestral ceremonies of China and Korea, where the spirits of ancestors are invited to a feast given by members of a family or lineage, rather than the funerals of the West, which are "final endings."

Although the famadihana does not occur outside the central highlands and the attitudes of the Merina and Betsileo toward the dead differ in certain significant respects, the idea of the dead as beings to be respected is universal in Madagascar. A number of different "souls" are recognized by the Malagasy. Among the Merina, these include the fanahy, a kind of essence which determines individual character and behavior; thus, an individual can have a good or a bad fanahy. Another is the soul of the person after death, the ambiroa, which is called to the tomb for the celebration of the famadihana, but which, over time, is believed to blend with the collective spirit of other ancestors. The ambiroa is believed to permeate the tomb building, the family household, and the hills and valleys of the tanindrazana, being in a sense omnipresent. Other concepts include the soul of a recently deceased person, the lolo, which is said to be harmless but feels homesick for its old surroundings and often appears in the form of a moth or a butterfly. The angatra, ghosts of the unknown dead, are often malevolent and frighten people at night. The emphases in the minds of the people, however, are not on the afterlife or on the experiences of the dead souls either as ghosts or in heaven or hell, but on the relationship of the dead with the living and the role of the former as bearers of power and authority.

The ombiasy and the mpanandro combine the functions of diviners, traditional healers, and astrologers. They originated among the Antaimoro and the Antambahoaka of the southwest coast, who were influenced by the Antalaotra. Among the Antandroy, it is the ombiasy who are often asked to eradicate a mistake made by neglecting a taboo. The Bara consult the ombiasy to look after the sick and dying. Family heads ask them when to begin certain agricultural tasks or when to marry or circumcise those entering adulthood. Merina families have their personal diviners who consult the stars; their advice is requested on all enterprises that are thought to involve dangers. They are paid a regular salary and additional fees for extra services. They set the auspicious day for a famadihana. Even a highly educated Merina would not think of building a house without consulting the ombiasy or the mpanandro for the favorable day to begin work. When a marriage is contemplated, both sets of parents will ask the ombiasy and the mpanandro whether the partners will be compatible.

The science of the ombiasy and the mpanandro is tied to the concept of vintana, which means fate ordained by the position of moon, sun, and stars. Accordingly, different values and different forces, either active or passive, are attributed to each fraction of time. Space, too, is thought to be affected by these forces, east being superior to west, and north being superior to south. Northeast therefore is believed to be the most favorable direction. People build their houses on the north-south axis and reserve the northeastern corner for prayers. Guests are seated on the northern side, and chickens are kept in the southwestern corner.

Fate is impersonal and cannot be changed, but certain aspects can be foretold and avoided. For divination the ombiasy use a system of Arabic origin in which fruit seeds or grains of corn are put into rows of eight. Various figure combinations indicate the future and what to do regarding sickness, love, business, and other enterprises. The ombiasy also sell talismans made of such objects as dried or powdered vegetables, glass beads, or animal teeth.

Fady are taboos on the use of certain substances, particularly foods, or on the performance, including the timing, of certain acts. They continue to regulate much of Malagasy life. Many are connected with vintana, while others express certain social values. For example, to deny hospitality to a stranger is fady, as is the act of refusing this hospitality. The concept of fady often also expresses a well-developed metaphorical sense. According to one fady, it is wrong to sit in the doorway of a house while the rice is sprouting, since the door of the house is compared to the "gateway" of birth and by blocking it, one might impede the "birth" of the rice. It is important to remember, however, that fady, particularly dietary prohibitions, vary widely among different ethnic groups, and from village to village within the same ethnic group. To be at home in a different locality, travelers must acquaint themselves with a large number of local variations.

Traditional beliefs are augmented by imported organized religions. Although exact figures on religious affiliations do not exist, it is estimated that approximately 55 percent of the total population adhere to traditional beliefs, and 40 percent are Christian, about evenly divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the remaining 5 percent being Muslim. Indeed, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches have found themselves competing for new adherents, most notably underscored by the fact that villages in the central highlands often have two churches, one Protestant and one Roman Catholic, that face each other at opposite ends of the village. The Roman Catholic church enjoys its largest support among the Betsileo people in the southern portion of the central highlands, and is also associated with former slaves and the côtiers. Protestantism enjoys its largest support among the Merina of the central highlands and, therefore, historically has been perceived as the Christian affiliation of the upper classes. Despite the minority status of Christians, the Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar played a major role in arbitrating a resolution to the conflict resulting from the violence and general strikes in May and August 1991.

The nineteenth century witnessed a confrontation between Christianity and traditional religious beliefs, as Queen Ranavalona I expelled foreign missionaries and persecuted Christians, putting many of them to death. The tide reversed at her death, and at the beginning of the reign of Ranavalona II, the old sampy--idols or talismans endowed with supernatural powers to protect the kingdom--were destroyed, and Protestantism became the religion of the royal family. Yet opposition has given way in many cases to a kind of mutual assimilation. Christian missionaries were able to build on the Malagasy concept of a supreme God by using the term, "Andriamanitra," to refer to the biblical God and by choosing one of the traditional terms for soul, fanahy, to define its Christian counterpart. Although the supremacy of Christianity in the central highlands led to the demise of idol worship, Malagasy pastors have not challenged the strength of traditional beliefs in the power and authority of the razana. Christians have their dead blessed at a church before burying them according to the old ceremonies, and may invite the pastor to attend a famadihana and place a cross on top of the tomb. Christian belief in the power of a transcendent and somewhat distant God has blended with older beliefs in the closeness and intimacy of the dead as spiritual beings. Some Malagasy Christians will even say that the dead have become Christians themselves and continue to be the arbiters of right and wrong.

Exact figures are not available, but followers of the Sunni and Shia variants of Islam together constitute somewhere around 5 percent of the total population. Most are Comorans or Indo-Pakistanis; a small number are converted Malagasy. The majority are located in Mahajanga Province. A small minority of the Indian community practices Hinduism.


The crime rate in Madagascar is very low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Madagascar. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Madagascar will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). The most recent and only data available for Madagascar are those submitted to INTERPOL for year 1995. According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1995 was 1.75 per 100,000 population for Madagascar, 1.02 for Japan, and 8.22 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1995 was 1.19 for Madagascar, compared with 1.19 for Japan and 37.09 for USA (Note that the rate quoted here for Madagascar was for Sex offences, including rape, since - data were recorded for rape, per se.) . For robbery, the rate in 1995 was 3.24 for Madagascar, 1.81 for Japan, and 220.95 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1995 was 21.45 for Madagascar, 13.92 for Japan, and 418.33 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1995 was 16.52 for Madagascar, 186.82 for Japan, and 987.61 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1995 was 1.24 for Madagascar, 1035.44 for Japan, and 3044.9 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1995 was 0.64 for Madagascar, compared with 28.45 for Japan and 560.5 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 46.03 for Madagascar, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.


Madagascar has a rich military history. During the early nineteenth century, the Merina kings relied on the army to extend their control through most of Madagascar. A small permanent force of career soldiers formed the backbone of the royal army. Periodic levies of freemen augmented these core units. Theoretically, military service was obligatory for all males. However, conscription laws excused sons of members of the ruling class and barred slaves from serving in the army. All soldiers shared in the spoils of war as the Merina expanded and consolidated their control over the island.

During the 1820s, the army's size increased to about 14,000 professional soldiers. Britain, hoping to counter French influence in Madagascar, furnished new weapons, ammunition, uniforms, and technical assistance to the army. The British also helped reorganize and train the army.

Increasing French interest in Madagascar prompted numerous clashes with the island's indigenous forces. Between 1883 and 1885, France launched several attacks on Madagascar. To end hostilities, the Merina recognized French control over Diego Suarez, agreed to pay an indemnity, and allowed a French resident at Antananarivo to control the country's foreign relations. In 1894 France declared a protectorate over the island but the Malagasy refused to recognize French authority. As a result, in September 1895 a French expeditionary force occupied the capital and obtained recognition of the protectorate from Queen Ranavalona III.

A Menalamba (red cloth) revolt broke out, however, among Merina conservatives against the institutions and agents of a repressive state-church society. Some observers also have suggested that the revolt was an attempt to overthrow the newly established colonial government. France reacted to this unrest by exiling the queen and the former prime minister to Algeria and by declaring Madagascar a French colony. The new French governor, General Joseph Gallieni, eventually pacified the country and carried out many reforms, including the abolition of slavery.

During the French period, which lasted from 1896 to 1960, the Malagasy could be conscripted into the colonial forces. During World War I and World War II, several thousand Malagasy served in France, North Africa, and other combat zones. After 1945 many Malagasy started agitating for independence. In March 1947, the Merina, who regarded themselves as Madagascar's genuine rulers, and some côtiers, members of another ethnic group, staged an uprising against the French. The island's colonial governor responded by unleashing a reign of terror against the rebels. Estimates of the numbers of Malagasy who perished in the revolt ranged from 11,000 to 80,000 (relatively few French soldiers died during the fighting). Notwithstanding these losses, France retained its influence in Madagascar, even after the island gained its independence.

During the postcolonial period, the Malagasy armed forces reflected the French heritage. Military personnel continued to receive training in France and to use French-manufactured weapons. Moreover, with the exception of a brief period in the late 1970s, French military advisers continued to serve in Madagascar.

After he came to power in 1975, Ratsiraka promised to bring about a "socialist revolution." As part of this policy, Ratsiraka enlarged and reorganized the security forces to make them appropriate for a "people's army" in a "socialist revolutionary" state. In 1975 he renamed the National Army the People'a Armed Forces (Forces Armées Populaires--FAP) and expanded its mission. Henceforth, the FAP engaged in civic-action programs and spread ideological education in the countryside. Between 1975 and 1980, the FAP doubled in size.

This reorganization diluted the power of the former National Army, which owed little loyalty to Ratsiraka. To prevent the FAP from challenging his authority, Ratsiraka started transferring able and experienced officers from troop command responsibilities to more senior, but less powerful, positions. Invariably, the new posts were in the inspector general's section of the Office of the President and in various Ministry of Defense committees that studied how the FAP could best facilitate national development.

Despite these changes, the FAP contributed little to the country's "socialist revolution" and remained a potentially important political player. Nevertheless, Ratsiraka, relying on manipulation and intimidation, retained almost absolute control of the armed forces until the growth of the pro-democracy movement in the early 1990s. Pro- and anti-democracy factions emerged in the FAP and many other state security services. Clashes among these factions added to the political turmoil sweeping through Madagascar, which eventually doomed the Ratsiraka regime.

Under the Ratsiraka regime, the FAP, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defense, annually assessed the military's needs. The Ministry of Defense then sent budget recommendations to Ratsiraka, who made final budget decisions. With the formation of the FAP in 1975, the cost of maintaining the military establishment became a greater burden on the national budget. However, after the Cold War ended and foreign military assistance declined, the Malagasy defense budget also decreased from more than US$101 million in 1979 to about US$36 million in 1991.

In 1993 the Forces Armées Populaires or FAP numbered about 21,000. Madagascar's president is commander in chief of the FAP. There is no reserve force. Males aged eighteen to fifty are subject to conscription for eighteen months of military or civil service. The majority of conscripts belonged to the relatively poor côtiers because exceptions to the conscription law allow influential or prosperous persons to avoid military service. The officer corps remains a promising career for most Malagasy. The FAP is divided into two operational services, the army and the aeronaval forces. The former is responsible for land operations and ground-based air defense; however, its primary role has been to defend state institutions and the president from armed opposition. The latter conducts air, naval, and amphibious operations.

The 20,000-member army, which is deployed as a coastal and internal security force, consists of two battalion groups, one engineer regiment, one signals regiment, one service regiment, and seven construction regiments. There is no reserve force. Because Madagascar lacks an indigenous arms production industry, the army imports all its equipment. The army weapons system includes twelve PT-76 light tanks; eight M-8, twenty M-3A1, ten FV-701 Ferret, and 35 BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles; and thirty M-3A1 half-track armored personnel carriers. Additionally, the army possesses fifty 14.5-mm ZPU-4 and twenty 37-mm Type 55 air defence guns; and twelve 76-mm ZIS-3, twelve 122-mm, and an unknown number of 105-mm artillery pieces. The mortar inventory consists of eight 120-mm M-43, twenty-four 82-mm M-43, and some 81-mm M-29s. There also are an unknown number of 89-mm rocket launchers and 106-mm M-40A1 recoilless launchers.

The mission of the aeronaval forces' 500-personnel air component includes combat, transport, and maritime patrol duties. The air force maintains its headquarters at Ivato, near Antananarivo, and operates from bases at Antalaha, Antsohiky, Arivoniamamo, Diego Suarez, Fianarantsoa, Fort Dauphin, Majunga, Nosy Be, Tamatave, and Tuléar. The air force consists of one fighter squadron with ten MiG-21 Fishbed and four MiG-17 Fresco aircraft; a transport squadron that includes four An-26 Curl, two Yak-40 Codling, three BN-2 Defender, two C-47 Dakotas, and two C212 Aviocar aircraft; and a helicopter squadron with six Mi-8 Hip transport helicopters. Additionally, the air force possesses one Cessna 310, three Cessna 337, one PA-23 Aztec utility/communications aircraft, and four Cessna 172 trainer aircraft.

The 500-member Malagasy navy, which lacks a sea-going capability, performs a coastal patrol mission from bases at Diego Suarez, Tamatave, Fort Dauphin, Tuléar, and Majunga. The naval inventory consists of one Malaika (French type PR48-meter design) patrol boat; and one Toky (French BATRAM design), one LCT (French EDIC design), one LCA, and three LCVP amphibious craft.

Apart from the FAP, there are five state security services in Madagascar: the National Gendarmerie, the Republican Security Force (Force Républicaine de Sécurité--FRS), the Civil Police, the Civil Service, and the Antigang Brigade. With the exception of the National Gendarmerie, all these units are outside the FAP chain of command.

A 7,500-member National Gendarmerie operates within the Ministry of Defense. This organization maintains public order, preserves security at the village level, protects government facilities, pursues criminals, and prevents cattle rustling. National Gendarmerie units are stationed throughout the island. The organization's equipment inventory includes automatic weapons, armored cars, and aircraft. The National Gendarmerie also operates a maritime police contingent that possesses five Philiberi Isiranana-class patrol craft (German Bayerische Schiffbau design).

Shortly after becoming president, Tsiranana created the 700- member FRS to safeguard his personal security and to act as an antiriot unit. By 1972 the FRS, which eventually became the GMP, included about 1,000 personnel. In late 1981 Ratsiraka established and commanded a similar organization called the Presidential Security Regiment (Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle--Reser), or simply the Presidential Guard. Initially, North Korean instructors trained this 1,200-member unit, whose personnel belonged to Ratsiraka's Betsimisaraka ethnic group. The Reser possesses a bunker at Iavoloha near Antananarivo, and the Mahajamba Regiment, which specializes in riot control. In the late 1980s, the French assumed responsibility for training the Presidential Guard.

A 3,000-member Civil Police force is attached to the Ministry of Interior. Most Civil Police personnel serve in the island's cities. The head of each prefecture has at least a small contingent under his control. Like the National Gendarmerie, the Civil Police often overreact during times of civil strife, thus earning the enmity of protesters and dissidents alike. Since the late 1980s, however, both organizations have attempted to improve their image.

The Civil Service is a paramilitary force that serves as a reserve element of the defense forces. Its operations are nonmilitary in nature and often involve working in rural and social development programs. Potential draftees serve in the Civil Service as an alternative to regular military duty.

During his early days as president, Ratsiraka created a 300- member intelligence and political investigation unit known as the General Directorate of Information and Documentation Internal and External (Direction Générale de l'Information et de la Documentation, Intérieure et Exterieure--DGIDIE). This organization, whose personnel were trained originally by German Democratic Republic (GDR--East German) and then by French advisers, possesses unlimited arrest and detention powers. To perform its duties, the DGID relies on a vast network of informers to ferret out dissenters, currency violators, and potential political opponents of the president. Over the years, the DGID has been accused of violating human rights, engaging in corrupt practices, and imprisoning foreign nationals accused of spying.

In February 1989, the French helped Madagascar establish an Antigang Brigade. This unit, which reports to the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for combatting hijackers, terrorists, and dangerous criminals. French security advisers provide training to the brigade.

Today, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior for Public Security and the national police, which are under the State Secretary, are responsible for law and order in urban areas. The Ministry of Armed Forces oversees the army, the air force, the navy, and the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie has primary responsibility for security except in major cities and is assisted in some areas by regular army units in operations against bandit gangs and cattle thieves. After a number of years of decline, the military force has stabilized at approximately 22,000 troops, including the gendarmerie. Village-level law enforcement groups enforce local traditional laws called "dina," particularly in areas where the Government's presence is weak. There continued to be occasional reports that police, gendarmes, and dina authorities committed human rights abuses.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, several persons, mainly of Indian and Pakistani origin, were kidnaped by criminals, ostensibly to extort ransoms from their families. Government authorities have not been effective in responding to these cases. Early in the year in Antananarivo, a girl was kidnaped and later released; her parents reportedly did not wish to press charges, and no action was taken. In August there was an attempted kidnaping in the Ivandry section of Antananarivo, which ended when the victim resisted and was killed. No suspects were identified. The manager of a large automotive company in Antananarivo was kidnaped in February and later released; no suspects were identified. During the year 2001, the Government opened an investigation into a 1999 kidnaping and a court hearing was held late in the year; a trial of the suspects was pending at year's end 2001.

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the person; however, there were occasional reports that police or other security forces abused prisoners or detainees. There were reports that gendarmes intimidated persons, abused their authority, and unlawful seized property. For example, in December 2000, gendarmes reportedly beat and detained a farmer in Ambinany, Fianarantsoa province. He was not charged with a crime; however, the gendarmes reportedly demanded that he give them either $150 (approximately 1 million FMG) or ownership of his rice fields in exchange for release from the Ambatofinandrahana jail.

Village dina authorities continued to mete out summary judgments; however, unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that dina authorities used torture to extract confessions.

The Constitution prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects these prohibitions in practice; however, there were reports that gendarmes seized property unlawfully. For example, during the year 2001, there were reports that some gendarmes illegally seized cattle.



The Constitution provides for due process for accused persons; however, arbitrary arrest and detention remain problems. In practice the authorities do not always observe legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. In particular, lengthy investigative detention of suspects resulted in the denial of due process. However, as the result of international pressure, many long-term detainees were released.

By law a criminal suspect must be charged, bound over, or released within 3 days of arrest. An arrest warrant may be obtained but is not always required. Defendants in ordinary criminal cases have the right to be informed of the charges against them, must be charged formally within the specified time permitted, and must be allowed access to an attorney.

Court-appointed counsel is provided for indigents accused of crimes that carry a minimum 5-year jail sentence. An attorney or the accused may request bail immediately after arrest, after being charged formally, or during the appeals process; however, bail rarely is granted in the case of violent crimes.

Although the law allows detainees to sue the Government for damages in cases of unlawful detention, no such suits were reported. By law persons accused of subversive activity may be detained incommunicado and are subject to indefinite detention if it is considered necessary by the Government; however, this law was not invoked during the year 2001.

Approximately two-thirds of 19,962 persons held in custody were in pretrial detention. Despite existing legal safeguards, investigative detention often exceeds 1 year, and 3 or 4 years' detention is common, even for crimes for which the maximum penalty may be 2 years or less. Approximately 2,000 detainees have been in custody for 5 or more years, and another 1,491 have been detained for between 2 and 5 years. Poor record keeping, a lack of resources, and poor to nonexistent access to parts of the country make it difficult to identify long-term pretrial detainees. The Ministry of Justice continued a program to reduce excessive pretrial detention through case reviews and expedited judgments. More than 655 detainees were tried in 2000 compared with more than 2,497 detainees tried in 1999; an indeterminate number of others were freed. The Ministry stated in 2000 that its goal was to bring the remaining long-term detainees to trial by the end of the year; however, the backlog remained at year's end 2001.

The Government does not use forced exile.


The Malagasy Penal Code is based primarily on French penal codes and procedures and has been somewhat influenced by Malagasy customary law. The Malagasy Penal Code affords the accused most of the rights and protections granted under French and Western laws. The most severe punishments are death and forced labor for life.

Madagascar has three levels of courts. Lower courts are responsible for civil and criminal cases carrying limited fines and sentences. The Court of Appeals includes a criminal court for cases carrying sentences of five years or more. The Supreme Court functions as the highest court in the country. Also, there is a separate and autonomous Constitutional High Court that reviews laws, decrees, and ordinances and monitors elections and certifies their results. A military court has jurisdiction over all cases that involve national security.

The revised Constitution provides for an autonomous judiciary; however, implementing legislation was not passed by year's end. The High Constitutional Court is subject to the President's influence.

The judiciary has three levels of jurisdiction: Local courts for civil and criminal cases carrying limited fines and sentences; the Court of Appeals, which includes a criminal court for cases carrying sentences of 5 years or more; and the Supreme Court. The judiciary also includes courts designed to handle specific kinds of cases such as cattle theft. The High Constitutional Court is an autonomous court that undertakes technical reviews of laws, decrees, and ordinances, and certifies election results. New decentralized courts were not established by year's end.

The judiciary remained under the control of the Ministry of Justice, and reports of corruption in the judiciary persisted. Although efforts were underway to address the problem, a large backlog of cases remained, which contributed to excessive investigative detention. The Ministry of Justice implemented some measures to increase transparency in judicial proceedings, including posting signs outside courthouse offices specifying procedures, regulations, costs, and timelines, in addition to opening a comment and complaint log in all courts.

Trials are public, and defendants have the right to an attorney, to be present at the trial, to confront witnesses, and to present evidence. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence under the Penal Code. The law is based on the Napoleonic code.

In 2000 an opposition deputy, Jean-Eugene Voninahitsy, who also was the Vice President of the National Assembly, was arrested on charges of defaming the President and writing bad checks. The highly publicized case led to public demonstrations and calls for greater political and judicial transparency. On December 27, the deputy was sentenced to 6 months in prison ostensibly on check fraud charges, and fellow deputies discussed his case with French parliamentarians and international human rights NGO's in France. The Deputy's subsequent requests for presidential amnesty were denied; as a result, he is ineligible to run for office.

The right of traditional village institutions to protect property and public order is codified in the Constitution as well as in earlier laws. Civil disputes within and between villages sometimes are addressed by local traditional laws called dina. Dina also are established in some urban areas. In practice, dina address criminal cases due to the isolation of many rural areas, a rise in crime, and the ineffectiveness of the police and the judiciary outside major urban centers. Punishments based on dina were at times severe. There also were problems with due process in the administration of dina punishments.

Decisions based on dina are not subject to codified safeguards for the accused, but in some instances, they may be challenged at the appeals court level. Some cases also have been referred to the Office of the Mediator, which investigates and may seek redress from formal judicial authorities. An interministerial committee, established to improve the surveillance of dina authorities and assure their adherence to the law, was disbanded after it drafted and submitted a dina to the National Assembly in 1999.

The Government continued to combat crime and insecurity in isolated rural regions by supplementing the gendarmerie--traditionally responsible for law and order in rural areas--with army units.

Military courts are integrated into the civil judicial system and differ only in the kinds of cases tried, in the inclusion of military officers on jury panels, and that they only try military defendants. Defendants in military cases, as in civil law, enjoy an appeals process that reexamines points of law rather than the facts of the case. A civilian magistrate, usually joined on the bench by a panel of military officers, presides over military trials.

There were no reports of political prisoners.


Madagascar has a nationwide prison system. Each province has a central prison for inmates serving sentences of less than five years. At the seats of various courts, there also are at least twenty-five lesser prisons for individuals serving terms of less than two years and for prisoners awaiting trial. Courts at the local (subprefecture) level maintain jails for lesser offenders serving sentences of up to six months. Women normally serve long sentences in the Central Prison (Maison Centrale) in Antananarivo.

Conditions in Malagasy prisons are harsh. Cells built for one often house up to eight prisoners. Family members of prisoners need to augment the inadequate daily food rations. Prisoners without relatives often go for several days without food. Inmates also suffer from numerous medical problems that are not usually treated, including malnutrition, infections, malaria, and tuberculosis. Children normally live in prisons with their mothers, and female inmates engage in prostitution in collusion with guards.

According to the State Department's 2001 Human Rights Report, prison conditions remain harsh and life threatening. Prisoners' diets are inadequate, and family members must augment daily rations. Prisoners without relatives nearby sometimes go for days without food. Prison cells average less than 1 square yard of space per inmate. The authorities do not provide adequate medical care. The prison population, which numbered 19,962 at year's end 2001, suffers from medical problems that are treated rarely or inadequately. Malnutrition, infections, malaria, and tuberculosis are common among prisoners. These conditions have caused an unknown number of deaths. Prisoners were used as forced labor in some instances. Pretrial detainees are not held separately from convicted prisoners.

Women in prisons were abused, as were children who sometimes were confined with them. Gender segregation was not absolute, and there were reports of rapes committed by other prisoners.

The Government permits prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, religious and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), lawyers, and investigative journalists. A local Catholic NGO sporadically was denied access to some prison facilities during the first half of the year, ostensibly in reaction to the NGO's advocacy on behalf of prisoners in late 2000 and a negative press report on prison conditions. However, since July the Government has allowed the NGO access and strongly reinforced the rights of others to visit prisons. In a July 16 note addressed to all prison officials, the Minister of Justice urged them and their employees to support and expand their collaboration with NGO's working in prisons within the framework of the law.



Domestic violence against women is not widespread. Police and legal authorities intervene when physical abuse is reported. The law against rape is the only law that addresses specifically violence against women. Spouses can be tried for nonrape abuses, generally under civil law.

The law neither prohibits nor condones prostitution; however, the law prohibits the incitement of minors to debauchery. The Government criticizes sexual tourism; however, while it attempts to investigate allegations of exploitation, a lack of resources hampers effective action. There were reports that women and girls were trafficked for prostitution.



The law prohibits trafficking and, since 2000, pedophilia and sex tourism. In recent years, there have been a few credible reports that women and girls were trafficked to the nearby islands of Reunion and Mauritius for prostitution; however, the number of such cases is unknown. In March, 2001, a couple in France was arrested in connection with an alleged case of modern slavery involving their 21-year-old Malagasy maid. No local arrests or convictions have been made in connection with trafficking. While the Government has expressed concern about trafficking, it lacks the resources to address it effectively.


Internet research assisted by Tony M. Soliman

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