|Part of the French colonial wars|
French poster about the "Madagascar War"
|French Republic||Merina Kingdom|
|Commanders and leaders|
|General Jacques Duchesne||Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony|
The Franco-Hova Wars (also Franco-Malagasy Wars) comprised French military interventions in Madagascar between 1883 and 1896 that overthrew the ruling monarchy of the Merina Kingdom, and resulted in Madagascar becoming a French colony. Hova refers to a class within the Merina tribal structure.
European colonial powers, primarily Britain and France, had ambitions to control Madagascar, a rich island with strategic importance in regard to the sea passage to India. However, Madagascar proved difficult to subdue due to its size, local hostility, and the unsuitable climate. Further, the Merina tribe had been successful in bringing the various local tribes under its control under their royalty and to coordinate the resistance. Skillfully exploiting the rivalry between Britain and France, the monarchy kept its independence. When the Queen Ranavalona I took power in 1828, considerable British influence was already suppressed. Upon her death, her son took over as King Radama II in 1861. As prince, he had already made secret concessions to Joseph-François Lambert, a French adventurer. This so-called Lambert Charter was unfavorable to Madagascar, and after a brief reign, he was assassinated in 1863 and the concessions were revoked resulting in a conflict with France. 
First Franco-Hova War
France invaded Madagascar in 1883, in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War, seeking to restore the cancelled concessions. With the signing of the Treaty of Tamatave in January, 1886, the war ceased. Madagascar ceded Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) on the northern coast to France and paid a hefty fine of 10 million francs. The treaty included an 'Instructive Letter' which was to clarify the treaty, but which was never presented in the French Parliament when they voted to ratify the treaty. The treaty essentially gave France control over Malagasy foreign policy, and the French government used this to exert increasing control over the territory, but a Protectorate was not formally declared.
Second Franco-Hova War
The terms and impositions of the treaty were resented by the Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony, but accepted. The monarchy was merely a figurehead for the tight control of the government exerted by the Prime Minister. The situation quickly changed when his former ally, the British, recognized a French Protectorate of Madagascar in September 1890, in return for eventual British control over Zanzibar and as part of an overall definition of spheres of influence in Africa. With the opening of the Suez Canal, the strategic significance of Madagascar had declined. This caused the Prime Minister to begin preparing for conflict by sending Colonel Shervinton, his European military adviser, to purchase arms in Europe. The French administration was determined to bring about a full Protectorate on the island, and thus evacuated its nonessential citizens from the region. Active hostilities commenced on December 12, 1894, when the French marines took possession of Tamatave. General Duchesne and his flying column landed in Mahajanga (Majunga) and marched to the capital, Antananarivo, hampered by the jungle, shallow river, disease, and lack of roads. Queen Ranavalona III was actually in favor of the French action, and supported their overthrow of the iron rule of Rainilaiarivony. They finally reached the city and began the assault in the last week of September 1895.
The defenders were stationed on the main road to the capital, to the south of the city. The French commander, however, circled the city and executed a feint attack on the north of the city. His main force attacked the east of the city, commanding a hillock from which he could shell the main government buildings, including the Queen's palace. Three shells were fired against the city, and the Hova army was routed. The Prime Minister's Secretary, Mark Rabibiosa, hoisted the flag of surrender and went out to meet the French. General Duchesne entered the city on October 1, and Queen Ranavalona III signed the treaty that made Madagascar a full Protectorate of the French government. Her first act was to replace Rainilaiarivony as Prime Minister. The Merina Kingdom was put under French protection in 1896, overseen by the first Resident-General, Laroche.
Twenty French soldiers died fighting and 6,000 died of malaria and other diseases before the second Franco-Hova War ended.