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Madagascar: How bad can it get?

March 13, 2009

How bad can things get in Madagascar? Dissident soldiers said they had deployed tanks in the capital on Friday and the president urged the population to repel the mutineers.

In a worst case scenario, tanks in Antananarivo could lead to battles between the police and the presidential guard — who remain loyal to President Marc Ravalomanana — against mutinous troops and members of the military police.

The mutineers insist they have no plans to attack the presidential palace, that they are not taking orders from opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, and that they are only responding to public calls to restore law and order.

Rumours have been rife in the city all week that Ravalomanana might call in hundreds of mercenaries, perhaps from South Africa, to defend him now that parts of the armed forces no longer listen to him. The mutineers said they had deployed tanks specifically to “intercept” any private mercenary forces that tried to enter the capital.

If that happened, fighting could break out and civilians would almost certainly be caught in the crossfire. The U.S. Embassy is encouraging its diplomats and citizens to leave while they can.

If the public ignore the president’s call to confront the dissident troops, and the mutineers stick to their pledge not to attack his palace and topple him at gunpoint, the stand-off is likely to continue. A crisis in 2002 over disputed election results rumbled on for eight months. The United Nations, African Union and others have been pushing for a resumption of face-to-face talks between the two men, but as the crisis deepens that prospect is receding.

Meanwhile, The crisis has already hammered Madagascar’s previously booming $390 million-a-year tourism sector. Tour operators say a stand-off will lead to the entire year being a write-off, and any escalation of the violence could hit visitor arrivals for years to come.

Major foreign investors, which include Total, Rio Tinto and Sherritt International, have so far not been affected, since their operations are well outside the capital. But civil war or a protracted stalemate, would be sure to make them re-evaluate their investment plans.


Your worst case scenario is not possible: there are no tanks in the country, despite what all the news organizations have been reporting without verification. Journalists: do your job!

Posted by Dan Turk | Report as abusive

Just left Antananarivo on Thursday. Situation was very tense. I heard gunfire on Wednesday near the Colbert Hotel where I was staying. Left on advise of the US Embassy, and glad I did given the developments on Thursday and Friday. My guess is that the stand off will continue as no one wants to risk losing foreign aid. But who knows. I got the impression when I was there that anything was possible

Posted by Moncef | Report as abusive

It seems to me that Power has already transferred and the President far from sitting defiantly in his Palace, is queued for departure in the departure Lounge.

Madagascar is an important signifier and even precursor of how the compact between the Ruled and their Rulers has changed and frankly, how patently fragile Many Governments are. Disenchantment is everywhere, and People are just beginning to flex their muscles.

As President Obama famously said There is a wrong side of history.

Aly-Khan Satchu


How i will this happened in ZIm….anyway nothing went bad.

Posted by Noma | Report as abusive

How i WISH this happened in ZIm….anyway nothing went bad.

Posted by Noma | Report as abusive

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