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Madagascar mutineers in talks

by Staff Writers
Antananarivo (AFP) Nov 18, 2010
Madagascar troops who staged a mutiny and claimed they seized power on the island were considering their next move Thursday after the government warned of reprisals against them, their leader told AFP.

"We are in a meeting to decide what we're going to do," General Noel Rakotonandrasana, a former armed forces minister who played a key role in the March 2009 coup that brought Andry Rajoelina to power, told AFP by telephone.

On Wednesday Rakotonandrasan declared that government institutions had been suspended and a military council was in charge of the country.

Prime Minister Camille Vital told AFP the mutineers numbered no more than 20 and a military source warned the government was preparing to get tough with them.

"If the negotiations fail the regime is going to take a much tougher stance. There won't be any en masse pardon. Orders have been given," the source said, asking not to be identified.

There were no signs of a military presence or unusual activity in the capital Thursday with traffic on the streets and shops open for business as normal.

Pedestrians and vehicles were moving normally through the street in front of the barracks where the mutineers are holed up, with just one sentinel standing guard at the entrance to the barracks.

Rajoelina, speaking Wednesday evening insisted that "the government will assume its responsibilities and consequently take action."

The mutiny took place on a public holiday as residents voted in a referendum on a new constitution organised by Rajoelina. This is the first poll since the March 2009 coup.

In the capital Antananarivo those who took part in the referendum voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new law, according to provisional results announced Thursday by the electoral agency, but turnout was only 40 percent.

The yes vote is likely to dominate everywhere as the opposition parties, led by the island's three former presidents Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka et Albert Zafy have called for a boycott rather than a no vote.

Despite the call by the mutineers "overall everything went off normally" during polling, Gisele Dama Ranampy, a member of the electoral agency, told AFP.

Dama Ranampy said the first result trends on a national level will only be available in two or three days' time because some upcountry areas are very remote. Official results will take even longer, she said.

It marks the first phase of a process agreed to by Rajoelina and around 100 small political movements to lift the island out of political stalemate. The process has however been rejected by the opposition and criticised by the international community as not being sufficiently representative.

The main opposition groups say the country needs a broader consensus.

The international community, on which the Madagascan economy is highly reliant, has made its scepticism clear.

"The political structures and processes created by the de-facto government remain insufficiently democratic and consensual," US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Karl Wycoff said during a visit earlier this month.

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Rebel troops claim Madagascar government suspended
Antananarivo (AFP) Nov 17, 2010
Dissident Madagascan soldiers claimed Wednesday they had taken power of the island as it voted in a constitutional referendum, but leader Andry Rajoelina vowed a swift crackdown. General Noel Rakotonandrasana, who played a key role in Rajoelina's army-backed coup in March 2009, declared that government institutions had been suspended and a military council was in charge. "From now on all ... read more

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