/ languages

Choisir langue


Ravalomanana says still in power, army may back opposition

Article published on the 2009-03-14 Latest update 2009-03-14 15:43 TU

The crowd at Saturday's opposition rally in Antanananrivo(Photo: Reuters)

The crowd at Saturday's opposition rally in Antanananrivo
(Photo: Reuters)

Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana insists that he is still in power, after the opposition declared that it had sacked him and his government. As opposition chief Andry Rajoelina appeared at a rally in the capital, Antananarivo, Satruday, the army said it will not intervene immediately but might back the opposition in the future for the sake of peace.

"This movement is ... a manifestation from the street which uses terror and repression to survive," said Ravalomanana, who insisted that he will stay put in his palace of Iavaoloha. "Self-proclamation gives no legal power."

But army chief, Colonel Andre Andriarijaona, while saying the his forces will not intervene in the power struggle at the moment, said they could end up supporting the opposition "if it would restore calm" to the country.

A speaker at an opposition rally on Friday( Photo: AFP )

A speaker at an opposition rally on Friday
( Photo: AFP )

Meanwhile in the centre of the capital, Antananarivo, Rajoelina called on Ravalomanana to "humbly leave power in the next four hours".

He was addressing a crowd of about 15,000 people, in his first public appearance since going into hiding on 3 March.

Earlier, the opposition's self-declared cabinet took over the Prime Minister's office.

"The President of the Republic, the National Assembly and the Senate, and the government are removed from their duties," said Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja, reading from a declaration signed by Rajoelina

Monja, whom the opposition has declared Prime Minister, was accompanied by a team of ministerial nominees and about 30 soldiers.

The group promised elections within two years.

 "We commit to organising presidential, parliamentary and district elections, in not more than 24 months,'' the statement said.

"We state that the President of the republic is no longer in a position to exercise the role allocated to him by the constitution and that it is clear the armed forces refuse to obey the president," Monja added.

The events are a repetition of the crisis which brought Ravolamanana to power after a seven-month face-off with then-President Didier Ratsiraka after the 2001 elections, according to former US foreign affairs official Herman Cohen.

He told RFI that whoever controls the capital controls the country and that one ethnic dominates the country.

"The most powerful ethnic group is the descendants of the Polynesians," says Cohen. "The rest of the country are people of African descent, who are probably in a majority but the Merina ethnic group really controls the power."

Analysis: Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen

14/03/2009 by David Page