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Africa

Demonstrations turn deadly in Antananarivo

Video by Cyril VANIER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-03-12

One protester has been killed during demonstrations in Madagascar, reports FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier in the capital of Antananarivo, as a military mutiny and the ouster of the country’s army chief deepens the country’s political crisis.

One person was killed during demonstrations in Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo Wednesday amid warnings that the Indian Ocean island was on the brink of civil war.

 
Reporting from Madagascar, FRANCE 24 correspondent Cyril Vanier said one man was killed Wednesday afternoon when the army fired into a group of pro-government demonstrators who had gathered outside government buildings in Antananarivo.

 
“The army fired several warning shots in the air, but I can confirm they shot at least once into the crowd because when I got there moments after the first warning shots were fired, a man lay dead on the ground. He had taken a bullet to the chest. The people around him had the same story: that he was shot by the army,” said Vanier.

 

It was not clear if the victim was a pro-government demonstrator or a bystander, said Vanier.

 
Madagascar has been in a deadly political crisis since the start of the year when opposition protesters took to the streets in support of Andry Rajoelina, the former Antananarivo mayor, who is locked in a power struggle with President Marc Ravalomanana. More than 130 people have been killed since protests broke out in the picturesque island nation.

 
New army chief calls off ultimatum

 
The crisis deepened earlier this week when army chief Gen. Edmond Rasolofomahandry gave the feuding politicians 72 hours to resolve their differences. But the threat of a military coup was lifted when a rebel soldier ousted the general and declared himself head of the army. The self-appointed army chief, Andre Andriarijaona, said the 72-hour ultimatum had been lifted.

 
In a phone interview with the AFP, Andriarijaona said Madagascar’s feuding politicians were now responsible for "resolving the problem."

 

But chances for a political resolution looked slim when Rajoelina said he would boycott reconciliation talks this week.

   

On Wednesday, local media quoted US Ambassador Niels Marquardt as saying Madagascar was on "the verge of civil war".

 

Soldiers opposed to government crackdown mutiny

 
The warning followed a mutiny over the weekend by army troops enraged over the government’s crackdown on opposition demonstrations.

 
Reporting from Madagascar, Vanier said the soldiers “resented orders to shoot into the crowd. They no longer want to answer to the president.”

 
While the mutinous troops have expressed their opposition to President Ravalomanana’s orders, Rajoelina has so far distanced himself from the latest developments in the army.

 
According to Vanier, the mutinous troops now control strategic parts of the military, including large weapons stocks and the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, the seat of the country’s military power.
 

Date created : 2009-03-12

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