Madagascar rivals stage rallies

Opponents hold simultaneous rallies amid political standoff in Indian Ocean island.

    Marc Ravalomanana, the  president, insists
    he would not step down from office [AFP]

    "Every problem in Madagascar can be resolved through discussion. We will do everything to restore peace."

    However, just one kilometre away on May 13 Square, Rojoelina told about 10,000 supporters he would start putting his government in place on Monday and urged the president to stand down.

    Power struggle

    Both political events finished at around the same time and while no violence was immediately reported, rival supporters were heard exchanging insults.

    The power struggle between both camps degenerated into violence on January 26, sparking widespread rioting and protests in the Indian Ocean island.

    More than 100 people died in violent clashes in less than a month.

    Rajoelina blamed the president for the deaths of 25 of his supporters last week [AFP]
    Just last week, police officers opened fire on opposition demonstrators as they marched towards the presidential place, killing at least 25 protesters.

    On Wednesday, both sides participated in talks mediated by religious leaders and diplomats who have urged them to call off demonstrations.

    So far, the military has refused to take sides in the dispute but Ravalomanana has replaced the heads of the police and security services with loyalists.

    In turn, Rajoelina, who has declared himself in charge of the country's affairs, named a former top army officer sacked two years ago by the president as his new 'defence minister'.

    The opposition leader has already named eight other 'ministers' since he was deposed as mayor by Ravalomanana's government on February 3.

    The United Nations, the African Union and former colonial power France have recently sent representatives to Madagascar to bolster peace negotiations.

    Rojoelina has blamed the president for the deaths, in addition to accusing him of misspending public funds. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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