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It seems Madagascar’s slow-motion coup has at last come to a head with the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, announced almost casually in a text message from one of his aides.
The change has been a long time coming — the first outbreaks of violence were in January — and it’s all rather different from what many would regard as the traditional African coup d’etat.
Over the years that has developed into a familiar formula — the dawn announcement from a little-known colonel on national radio, the setting up of a military council to restore order after the sins of the previous regime, and the vague promise of a return to democracy in due course. The ousted leader may well have been out of the country at the time. The new boys move quickly to consolidate power.
In its final stages, the Madagascar version has been a little slower. Troops announced that they had deployed tanks but initially did not show them on the streets. Soldiers stormed the presidential palace, but the president was not at home. The central bank was seized, but the colonel in command of that operation then announced he had no more orders for the time being.
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.
In the relative political calm of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar has long been a centre of turbulence.
Now another political crisis is brewing as the opposition accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of abuse of power and threatening democracy. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters demonstrated in Antananarivo on Wednesday, two days after an earlier rally descended into violence that left nearly 40 people dead.