After a month-long political showdown with president Marc Ravalomanana, Malagasy opposition leader, Andry Rajeolina, was seeing parading through the streets of the capital surrounded by soldiers before entering the presidential palace seized by army troops on Monday night. The palace was the scene of a violent clash between anti-government supporters and troops loyal to him last month. Tensions reached fever-pitch last January, when the government blocked an opposition radio station’s signal. Then, supporters of Rajoelina responded in kind, setting fire to a building in the government broadcasting complex as well as an oil depot, a shopping mall and a private TV station linked to Ravalomanana. Many protesters were killed.
Days later, soldiers opened fire on anti-government protesters, killing at least 25. Marc Ravalomanana, the country’s president, was immediately blamed for the mass killing, which prompted some soldiers to stop obeying his orders.
Latest reports out of Antanarivo, the capital, confirm that a coup has taken place and that a rebellious faction of the army, which previously claimed to be neutral in Rajoelina’s power-struggle with the president and interested only in restoring order, seized control of the government. It was not entirely clear how much of the army has gone over to the opposition leader.
According to the Associated Press, an aide to the deposed president announced that a council of high-ranking, veteran military officers would hold elections within two years. Ravalomanana, whose presidential term would not have been over until 2011, was forced out, adding another turbulent chapter to that country history.
Madagascar is an exotic island on the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeastern Africa widely admired for its breathtaking picturesque valleys. A former French colony, the country gained independence in 1960, ending a long period of brutal French rule. But the country never fully recovered from its miserable past.
Rajoelina, former mayor of the capital who is now the new boss, issued no immediate public reaction to Ravalomanana’s resignation, although he previously accused Ravalomanana of misspending public funds and undermining democracy in Madagascar.