Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, French: République malgache), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world, and is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. They include the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three bird families and six baobab species. Two thirds of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
As part of East Gondwana, the territory of Madagascar split from Africa approximately 160 million years ago; the island of Madagascar was created when it separated from the Indian subcontinent 80 to 100 million years ago. Most archaeologists estimate that the human settlement of Madagascar happened between 200 and 500 A.D., when seafarers from southeast Asia (probably from Borneo or the southern Celebes) arrived in outrigger sailing canoes. Bantu settlers probably crossed the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar at about the same time or shortly afterwards. However, Malagasy tradition and ethnographic evidence suggests that they may have been preceded by the Mikea hunter gatherers. The Anteimoro who established a kingdom in Southern Madagascar in the Middle Ages trace their origin to migrants from Somalia.
The Code de l'indigénat was a set of laws creating, in practice, an inferior legal status for natives of French Colonies from 1887 until 1944–1947. First put in place in Algeria, it was applied across the French Colonial Empire in 1887–1889. A similar strategy was also employed by other European colonial powers, under the concept of Indirect rule.
The French government, in contrast, wrote much about the assimilation of colonial subjects, with the final aim of creating in their colonies integral parts of France, filled with African, Arab, or Asian Frenchmen. This combined with a Jacobin tradition of centralizing government, has given weight to the argument that French colonial rule stood in stark contrast to other models. But only small areas of France's colonial possessions were ever afforded full rights as Overseas Departments of the French state. (Read more...)
In the municipal elections held on November 14, 1999, Ravalomanana was elected as mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, receiving 45% of the vote and defeating former Prime Minister Guy Willy Razanamasy. As mayor he was credited with successfully cleaning up the capital. He announced on August 5, 2001 that he would run for President in the election to be held later that year on December 16; two months later, polls showed him to be ahead of the incumbent president, Didier Ratsiraka.