African Union denounces 'attempted coup' in Madagascar

The African Union denounced what it called an "attempted coup" in Madagascar last night after troops and tanks stormed one of the presidential palaces on the Indian Ocean island.

The show of force by the army, publicly backing the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, appeared to signal a decisive swing in the balance of power away from the embattled president Marc Ravalomanana.

A day of violent confusion in the troubled country ended with gun shots being heard in the capital Antananarivo and a warning that more was to follow from opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. Seemingly emboldened by his military support, he warned that a fresh attack on the president's haven at his residence, Iavoloha, on the outskirts of the capital could follow shortly.

"Right now Ravalomanana has no power," the opposition leader told Reuters last night. "Do we intend to seize Iavoloha? Many things will take place in the next 48 hours."

However, he denied sending the troops in against his rival.

"It wasn't me who gave the order (to take the palace)".

The former French colony has been gripped by an escalating power struggle between the political rivals and Mr Ravalomanana played what some analysts believe may have been his last card yesterday, offering a referendum on his rule in an effort to stabilise the country and win himself some time.

That offer was swiftly rejected by the populist mayor and former DJ who instead called on the armed forces to arrest the president. The call came just three days after the confident pretender had issued an ultimatum to Mr Ravalomanana to step down within four hours. That deadline came and went without action but in recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that the president's hold on power is slipping.

Despite persistent attempts by the government to portray him as a rabble rouser with only "street" support the 34 year old Mr Rajoelina has gathered increasing momentum after leading popular protests against the president.

Mr Ravalomanana, a tycoon compared by some with Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, only won re-election in 2006 but the arrival of a younger more media-conscious rival has seen his support dwindle drastically. The parallels between the 55 year old self made millionaire and his flashy opponent are striking. Both men stepped into politics by winning the mayoralty in Antananarivo and both have defined themselves in opposition to the traditional and older political elite. However, the president has found himself outflanked by a man who is six years too young to take the highest office under the present constitution.









(Video from France 24)

Underneath the tussle for power is a widespread discontent at poverty levels on the world's fourth largest island. The army which has traditionally remained neutral in the country's frequent political battles has sided strongly with the opposition leader, even sacking the head of the armed forces last week to clear the way.

"We are there for the Malagasy people. If Andry Rajoelina can resolve the problem, we are behind him," said Colonel Andre Ndriarijaona, who led the mutiny last week and replaced the previous army chief of staff.

Mr Ravalomanana was not in the complex of buildings near the centre of the capital when the soldiers took over yesterday. He is being guarded by lightly armed supporters at another palace on the other side of the city.

The struggle on Madagascar began earlier this year with bloody protests against the president, led by then mayor Rajoelina who announced that he was now "in charge" of the country. The security forces opened fire on the protestors on 8 February killing at least 28 people. The president further responded by firing the younger man from his job as mayor sending him briefly into hiding.

The president has dismissed unrest against his rule saying that it violates democratic standards. Mr Rajoelina has also sought to portray himself as a democrat, leading a people's revolution.

However, neither man's democratic credentials bear much scrutiny. The president won re-election in a vote that independent observers believe was rigged and Mr Rajoelina has shown no willingness to await an election in order to take power.

The instability on the island has wrecked its valuable tourist income and endangered a multibillion pound nickel extraction project. It has not yet affected the interests of the Rio Tinto mining group who have significant holdings to the south of the vast island.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
science
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried