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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Madagascar Coup De Ta May be Imminent

Source: Reuters

* Rebel soldier ousts head of army
* U.S. ambassador warns of danger of civil war
* Embassies threaten aid suspension in event of coup

By Richard Lough
ANTANANARIVO, March 11 (Reuters)

- A rebel soldier named himself head of Madagascar's army on Wednesday, ousting the general who had given the island's feuding leaders a three-day ultimatum to resolve the political crisis.

General Edmond Rasolomahandry had on Tuesday asked President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina to unite within 72 hours to end weeks of troubles that have killed about 135 people and devastated the economy.

"Discussions proceeded without problems between brothers. From now on, the army is behind me," Colonel Noel Ndriarijoana, leading mutinous troops, told reporters.

The troops mutinied in anger at a crackdown by the government on demonstrations against President Ravalomanana, but opposition leader Rajoelina has distanced himself from them.

Local media reported on Tuesday that U.S. Ambassador Niels Marquardt had warned the Indian Ocean island nation was on "the verge of civil war".
  • Rajoelina, a 34-year-old one-time disc jockey, has galvanised widespread anger over the president's failure to alleviate poverty.
  • He has repeatedly called on Ravalomanana to resign, saying he no longer controls the capital or provinces.
  • The government calls him a maverick troublemaker and accuses him of whipping up public discontent with exaggerated claims.

A group of foreign missions also made clear they would suspend aid in the event of a coup d'etat.

"All non-democratic alternatives are not acceptable -- be it a coup d'etat, a military junta or the ongoing unrest," said Augustine Kasujja, the Vatican envoy, speaking on behalf of the diplomatic community.

"This will have seriously negative consequences for Madagascar's external relations with the outside world and for our capacity to support the country's development."

(Writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Matthew Tostevin

Source: Reuters Africa

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