Madagascar defence minister quits over bloodshed
Madagascar’s defence minister quit on Monday after security forces gunned down at least 28 anti-government demonstrators at the weekend, saying her conscience could not take the latest bloodshed.
The resignation of Cecile Manorohanta, once a close ally of President Marc Ravalomanana, intensifies a vicious power struggle on the Indian Ocean island that has killed more than 125 people over the last two weeks and devastated its economy.
“The task of the security forces is to defend the people and their well-being,” Manorohanta said in a statement after commandos opened fire on an opposition rally on Saturday outside the presidential palace in the capital, Antananarivo.
“Considering certain things that are not clear and which my conscience cannot accept, I have decided to quit the government as of today.”
The sacked mayor of the city, Andry Rajoelina, has led a campaign of protests against Ravalomanana, whom he accuses of being a dictator. The president denies it.
Rajoelina (34) said his supporters would pay their respects on Monday to those killed at Saturday’s protest and called for a day of mourning. Both men blame each other for the deaths.
The worst violence for years has had a catastrophic effect on the economy of the world’s fourth-largest island, which has recently seen its tourism and mining sectors boom.
The government has opened its doors to major foreign companies to exploit its vast reserves of natural resources, including oil, gold, nickel, cobalt, uranium and ilmenite, which is a major source of titanium.
Vice-Admiral Ranaivoniarivo Mamy, a close military ally of the president, was named to replace Manorohanta.
Rajoelina burst on to the political scene in 2007 as mayor and became a vociferous critic of the government, tapping into popular frustration over poverty and social divisions.
But analysts say he might have overplayed his hand in attempting to oust Ravalomanana.—Reuters