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Tanks allegedly stationed in around Antananarivo, opposition says President is on his way out

Article published on the 2009-03-13 Latest update 2009-03-13 13:05 TU

Troops outside the Defence Minister's office on 10 March(Photo: Reuters)

Troops outside the Defence Minister's office on 10 March
(Photo: Reuters)

Confusion mounts in Madagascar with reports of tanks being stationed in “secret locations” around the capital Antananarivo as Augustin Andriamananoro, “minister” of communications for Andry Rajoelina’s opposition says that President Marc Ravalomanana and his ministers are in the middle of packing their bags.

“Now the military are with us,” Augustin Andriamananoro, who said he was speaking on behalf of opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, told a crowd of 2,000 people gathered in the 13 May Square in the centre of the capital Friday. “Ravalomanana and his ministers are in the middle of packing their bags.”

Rajoelina and the man he appointed as Prime Minister of a transitional government, Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja, were not present at the gathering.

A faction of the army that has declared it will no longer take orders from Ravalomanana said it has positioned tanks in “secret locations” around the capital, locally known as Tana.

Tourists leaving Madagascar(Photo: Reuters)

Tourists leaving Madagascar
(Photo: Reuters)

“We moved tanks into Tana during the middle of the night,” said Colonel Noel Rakotonandrasa, a spokesperson for the faction that has not explicitly expressed support for Rajoelina. “They’re not on the streets but at a secret location.”

On Wednesday, the US ambassador to Madagascar warned he thought the island was on the verge of civil war.

But Jean-Claude Boidin, Head of the European Commission’s delegation to the country, told RFI on Thursday that the country is “in a situation which is tense, but we certainly do not see a civil war coming.”

Meanwhile, resignations, reinstatements and ultimatums by the military have created further confusion.

The army had issued a 72-hour deadline on Tuesday for a political resolution to the conflict, although this was rescinded once the army Chief of Staff was replaced.

A conference between the opposing factions, which had been scheduled for Thursday and Friday, had been cancelled.