Johannesburg, March 13, 2009 - In Madagascar, mutinous troops say they
control the army's tanks but deny they are planning to attack the
presidential palace. The latest development comes amid weeks of unrest.
A spokesmen for the mutinous troops, Col. Noel Rakotonandrasana, Friday
said his group had deployed the tanks at a barracks in Antananarivo.
But local reporter Mialy Randriamampianina said that no tanks were
visible in the capital.
"It is said that there are some tanks here in the town of Antananarivo
right now," he noted. "We haven't really seen it in the streets. We
don't know exactly where they are but this morning the army said those
tanks are in the town in order to protect the civilian population."
She said the report caused concern among officials in the government of
President Marc Ravalomanana. He went on national television Thursday
night to appeal for the armed forces to remain neutral in his standoff
with former Mayor Andry Rajoelina.
The defense minister Vice-Admiral Mamy Ranaivoniarivo resigned earlier
this week but state radio Thursday said he had resumed his post.
Weeks of demonstrations and confrontations that have killed more than
100 people have polarized the nation and caused divisions with the
The mutineers last week said they would no longer observe orders to kill
their own people and suggested it was time for the president to step
The confrontation began in January after the government closed a radio
station owned by Rajoelina. This followed a rally during which the
former mayor accused the president of corruption and authoritarianism.
Rajeolina subsequently announced his cabinet and said he was taking over
the government. The president responded by dismissing him as mayor and
sent troops to surround his residence.
Church leaders, the United Nations and the African Union have tried to
mediate. But the negotiations stalled after Rajoelina walked out
accusing the president of going back on promises made.
The unrest has hurt Madagascar's tourism industry and foreign
investment. The US embassy has urged its citizens to consider leaving
while commercial airlines are operating normally.