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Terrorism & Security

Madagascar 'coup' riles African, international allies

New leader Andry Rajoelina has asserted control as the South African Development Community threatens to suspend Madagascar.

By / March 19, 2009



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A regional body may suspend Madagascar's membership following the ousting of former President Marc Ravalomanana by troops loyal to Andry Rajoelina, who was installed Wednesday as the country's acting president.

The military-backed takeover in Madagascar has raised fears of a return to military rule across Africa, following recent coups in Guinea, Mauritania, and Guinea-Bissau. The United States and European Union have threatened to cut off aid to Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries. Zambia, a key member of the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC), has called for the immediate suspension of Madagascar from the grouping and from the larger African Union. SADC leaders are meeting Thursday in the capital of Swaziland to consider the call.

Voice Of America News reports that the group's executive secretary, Tomaz Salmomao, said such violations of constitutional rule break the rules of the both groupings and should not be condoned.

"You are aware that the president of the republic resigned yesterday and he hand over the power to a military directory themselves also transferred the power to the former mayor of Antananavivo," [said Mr. Salmomao.] "So in practical terms we have a military coup. In view of that and because Madagascar is a SADC member state, SADC has to take a position."

The US State Department has evacuated most embassy staff, suspended the Peace Corps program, and warned Americans against travel to Madagascar.

State Department officials have used Twitter feeds to refute rumors that Mr. Ravalomanana, a twice-elected president, was hiding in the US Embassy in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, the Associated Press reports. Twitter feeds from the capital had claimed that the deposed leader had sought refuge in the embassy, potentially making the compound a target of opposition attacks. US officials sent Twitter messages denying the claims.

Madagascar is the world's fourth-largest island and is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. (See a map of the region here.)

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