State Security Services in Madagascar

The following is excerped from the Country Studies--Area Handbook program of the U.S. Department of the Army. The original version of this text is available at the Library of Congress.
Full index of Country Studies-Madagascar


State Security Services

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.

Data as of August 1994

This is excerped from the Country Studies--Area Handbook program of the U.S. Department of the Army. The original version of this text is available at the Library of Congress.
Full index of Country Studies-Madagascar

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