Madagascar forces retake government buildings

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ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Madagascar security forces regained control of four government ministries overnight from opposition activists, authorities said Friday. Police arrested 50 people and no injuries were reported.

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Madagascar security forces regained control of four government ministries overnight from opposition activists, authorities said Friday. Police arrested 50 people and no injuries were reported. The buildings were taken over Thursday by supporters of opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who has been challenging the president for power. Two of the ministries were responsible for security and the others were the ministries of education and decentralization. Internal Security Minister Desire Rasolofomanana, whose ministry was among those involved, said police and soldiers helped remove barriers put up by demonstrators. "The ministries have been retaken," he said. "Civil servants can return to work as normal." Rajoelina responded Friday by calling for a march Saturday "unless some solution was found before midnight." He did not elaborate on what solution he would accept; he has insisted President Marc Ravalomanana step down. Rajoelina also called on senior military leaders to meet with him and claimed lower ranking officers were on his side. The country’s military brass emerged from a meeting Tuesday with the president saying they would remain united in the face of the political schisms, but they did not explicitly throw their support to either faction. The six most senior army generals said they stood with "those who want a quick solution to the current crisis." Rajoelina accuses the president of misspending funds and says Ravalomanana is responsible for the deaths of at least 25 civilians killed by police fire during a Feb. 7 protest. In late January, opposition protests sparked deadly riots. Within days of the Feb. 7 killings, Madagascar’s defense minister had resigned and the president replaced the army chief. On Thursday, Ravalomanana replaced his police minister, citing unspecified health reasons. Attempts to find a negotiated solution continued. The archbishop of the capital, Odon Razanakolona, said religious leaders had met separately with Ravalomanana and Rajoelina on Thursday and expected the two to hold a face-to-face meeting, though no date was announced. Madagascar, an impoverished nation of 20 million off the coast of southern Africa, has seen such political turmoil in the past. A dispute between Ravalomanana and former President Didier Ratsiraka after 2001 elections left the country divided with two governments, two capitals and two presidents. Ratsiraka fled to France in June 2002. Ravalomanana won re-election in 2006. ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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