Madagascar president blames rival for deadly unrest

At least 68 people died in a wave of rioting in Madagascar this week, a police official said on Wednesday, as President Marc Ravalomanana accused his main rival of stoking political unrest.

A French government official, however, said more than 80 people had died on the former French colony in just a few days amid a bitter war of words between Ravalomanana and the capital’s mayor, Andry Rajoelina.

The senior Madagascan police official said most of the deaths took place on Monday and early Tuesday, and that local authorities had ordered curfews in several regions.

“Tonight [Wednesday] the situation is calm in the country,” the official said.

At least 42 people died in the capital, Antananarivo, including 30 rioters who were crushed by a ceiling that collapsed in a supermarket fire, he said.

In Toliara, on the south-western coast, 16 people died, while 10 other deaths were reported in other areas of the country, the official said.

But French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet, warning that the situation was “very worrisome”, said more than 80 people had died in recent days. At least 34 people had previously been reported killed.

“There are 20 000 French nationals there, so we are watching the situation attentively, hour by hour,” he said.

Rajoelina, who called for the protests that turned violent on Monday, planned a fresh gathering for this weekend at a city park where he also held a huge rally last Saturday.

He demanded that the government punish those behind the shooting of one of his supporters during the demonstrations.

“I am issuing an ultimatum to the government to sentence to hard labour whoever gave the order and whoever executed [the supporter] by tomorrow [Thursday],” Rajoelina told a crowd that turned out for the funeral of the slain teenager.

The teenager was shot in the head by guards in front of Ravalomanana’s private TV station, MBS, which along with the state radio building had been besieged by an angry mob.

“Tomorrow, in a sign of solidarity with the family and as we wait for the government’s response, we will make Antananarivo a dead city. No school; work and shops will be shut.

“But on Saturday, we will all be here at Place du 13 Mai,” he added, referring to the city plaza.

The 34-year-old mayor, who portrays Ravalomanana as a dictator, had announced a temporary suspension of the protests on Tuesday.

His deputy, Andriamahazo Nirhy-Lanto, said: “We stopped yesterday [Tuesday] to honour those who died in the demonstrations as well as to ensure that there is order.”

Ravalomanana, himself a former Antananarivo mayor, blamed Rajoelina for the violence.

“It was him, the leader, the initiator of these disturbances,” Ravalomanana said as he visited the state radio building. “The priority for me now is to restore all that was destroyed.”

Ravalomanana was forced to rush back home on Sunday and miss a regional summit in South Africa as he sought to quell his biggest threat and Madagascar’s worst political unrest since his 2006 re-election.

He said he had opted not to call in the army as that would only have led to further bloodshed.

“It was me who ordered the army not to intervene. The situation must be properly managed otherwise it would have been a bloodbath.”

Ravalomanana (59), who first came to power after disputed elections in 2001, has called for national unity and talks with his younger rival.

The deputy mayor said there had been no talks between the two rivals before adding that Ravalomanana had been nationally “discredited.”

The tussle between Rajoelina and the president worsened with last month’s closure of the mayor’s television network for broadcasting an interview with former president Didier Ratsiraka.

Rajoelina became mayor after defeating Ravalomanana’s party as an independent candidate in municipal elections in 2007.

He has since become an outspoken opponent of the president, condemning what he says are shrinking freedoms on the island.

Madagascar suffered some of its worst political violence after the 2001 presidential elections when then-president Ratsiraka refused to accept defeat by Ravalomanana.

The impasse split the island in two — with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army — until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in May 2002. — AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Ndabeni-Abrahams lockdown debacle: What we know

The minister has to answer to the president after a picture was posted of her apparently breaking lockdown rules

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world