May 13, 1972 in Madagascar was marked by the gathering of the people for the strike that started on January 22 by students of medicine and pharmacy, which was extended on April 24 in solidarity to all secondary and higher education after the repression suffered by the strikers of the Association of Medical and Pharmacy Students. On May 13, 1972, the FRS (Republican Security Forces) fired at the crowd of protesters on Independence Avenue in Antananarivo. Many dead and wounded were to be mourned. This repression led to the end of a pro-French regime, the First Republic, which had kept Madagascar under the strong political and economic dependence of France, and which this social movement sought to regulate with methods imported from the West: recruiting the police on the crowd. During this period, the AKFM, the main opposition force, has never stopped advocating, without expressing it explicitly, fihavanana: bringing everyone around the table to solve problems peacefully, according to Malagasy tradition. This is the analysis of the situation made by our comrades of the AKFM during the 2 months leading up to the tragic repression.
“Talks must be opened between the government and the AEMP”
One of the starting points of the repression of 13 May 1972 was the strike of medical and pharmacy students at the Befelatanana School of Medicine. This strike started on January 22. In its statement dated March 13, 1972, the AKFM underlined the veracity of the main claim:
“The essential requirement, which is the basis of this strike movement, must be considered by all walks of life, in fact:
– this claim is based on the refusal of discrimination and antagonism, which currently exist in the fields of medical education and care for the population, because an “inferior” category of doctors is trained to treat the peasantry, and a “higher” ” category is reserved for the remaining part of the population
– economic reasons (low income of the families that influenced the studies of the children, the latter looking for a job to get out of these difficulties, etc.) gave priority to these young people to enter the School of Medicine through Befelatanana
– these students do not always have the guarantee to find a job in administrative medical services at the end of their studies,
The AKFM therefore considers that:
– the claim made by the AEMP (Association of Students of Medicine and Pharmacy – Editor’s Note) for the establishment in Madagascar of a single medical faculty is well founded
– talks must be opened between the government and the AEMP, threats and pressure on strikers must stop, because the right to strike must be respected, and coercive measures, no more than the closure of the School of Medicine of Befelatanana, will not be possible to answer the question”.
The demands of the students “are also those of the Malagasy people”
But the government persisted in its refusal to engage in dialogue, even going so far as to dissolve the AEMP.
On April 24, the strike spread to secondary schools and all universities in solidarity with medical and pharmacy students who were victims of the repression.
On April 25, an AKFM statement called on President Tsiranana to reason:
“The reasons put forward in the decision to dissolve the AEMP. and reporting “actions that may disturb public opinion and public order” are not justified… because all observers have been able to see the seriousness with which the students of Befelatanana have organized their strike movement which is kept calm and continues. The duration of this strike, the solidarity of the strikers, the support given to this movement by the most diverse organizations and associations, prove that the demands supported by the AEMP are also those of the Malagasy people.
Debt restructuring is contrary to democratic principles, as even the Constitution of the Malagasy Republic recognizes the right of individuals, members of the same company, to go on strike to meet their claims. †
The bankruptcy of an education system copied from a foreign system
“The government should not persist in its negative attitude, but accept the dialogue. In order for the current situation to evolve in that direction, the AKFM requests the repeal of the decision to dissolve the AEMP. †
This same statement brought the orientation problem to the end of the third grade, where a competition allowed entry into high school. The AKFM pointed out that “a contest means selection and only a minority can benefit from it, because only a few exceptions among the children of workers and peasants can succeed in a contest; indeed, the possibility for a student to continue his studies essentially depends on the socio-economic context in which he lives”.
In conclusion, the AKFM notes that “the politicization of the board further exacerbates the malaise among students and young people”.
“The AKFM reaffirms that the bankruptcy of education in Madagascar is undeniable, as we were content to copy a foreign education system.”
At that time, many teachers were French cooperatives, and it was still the history of France that was taught.
Corruption and rising prices
Three days before the dramatic events, the AKFM issued a new warning at a press conference:
In summary, the foundations and structures of today’s education do not match the real needs of the nation. It was therefore foreseeable that sooner or later both young people and parents would become aware of the bastard situation in which they find themselves.
Adding to this malaise is the dissatisfaction that stems from government policies: disrespect for democracy and even the law, corruption, the cost of living that continues to rise. All layers of society are feeling the negative consequences of the government’s policies to date. And the broad support given to the strike is explained by the desire for profound change for the better and for real progress.”
“Stiffness and intransigence are not the solution”
The AKFM also denounced the maneuvers of “reactionary political and economic forces” and affirmed that there is no need to have political parties pushing for “direct action” acting “in collusion with the regime they claim to be fighting”.
“The AKFM declares that stiffening and intransigence is not the solution and that it will not benefit anyone if the matter is left to drag and rot or leave the door open for all sorts of maneuvers (…) The AKFM also affirms that the best guarantee for the success of the struggle led by these young people and students is cooperation with the people, that is, with the parties and organizations that express the aspirations of the people in their diversity”.
During this period, the AKFM, the main opposition force of the pro-French government, has never stopped advocating for dialogue, in the Malagasy tradition of fihavanana. On May 13, 1972, the government wanted to solve the problem by using methods imported from the West: firing the FRS into the crowd. This decision marked the beginning of the end of the First Republic in Madagascar.