/ 20 May 2009

Former Madagascar leader turns to YouTube

Madagascar’s fallen leader, Marc Ravalomanana, is using YouTube to rally his support against the ”illegal coup regime” and press for his return to power in the vast island nation.

”I call on the international community to join the Malagasy people in working with utmost urgency to bring an end to the coup regime,” he said in the video, filmed against a backdrop of the national flag.

The clip marked the first time that Ravalomanana has posted to the video-sharing site. The five-minute speech was posted in English, French and Malagasy.

”We cannot and will not allow our democracy and our country to be hijacked by an illegal coup regime,” he said, wearing a dark suit with a red tie.

”With the help and support of the international community, this tyranny will be brought to a speedy halt,” he added.

”My heart remains with the Malagasy people, and I intend to return home soon as president to restore constitutional order,” he said.

Ravalomanana’s posting has drawn about 2 000 combined viewings in all three languages since it was posted late on Tuesday. There are about 110 000 internet users in the country.

Ravalomanana became president on a wave of popular support in 2002, but street protests forced him to resign in March, leaving opposition leader Andry Rajoelina to take power with the army’s backing.

His supporters still hold almost daily protests clamouring for his return, but a warrant has been issued for his arrest by the new authorities.

On Monday, Ravalomanana said in an interview that he was ready to hold early elections or a referendum on his rule, if he were allowed to return to power on Africa’s biggest island.

The new authorities say they will hold presidential elections next year. — Sapa-AFP