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Madagascan students join protest against gov't
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09:46, March 04, 2009

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Students at Antananarivo University jointed the opposition protest against the government on Tuesday, urging the government to release one of their classmates within 24 hours.

The student threatened to kidnap every policeman they meet if the government refused to release their classmate, who was arrested last Monday by the police when he tried to stop the police from removing the roadblocks erected by anti-government demonstrators to prevent the arrest of two opposition leaders living in the university area.

One police official was taken as hostage by the students but released shortly after negotiation between the two sides, according local media reports.

With the opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina, failed to gather a mass gathering he expected, students spearheaded the anti-government rally of the day at the center of anti-government protest, or May 13 Square, as it was called here.

Rajoelina called his supporters as well as government employees and workers last Saturday to continue their general strike from Monday until the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana.

Employees from the only electricity company in Madagascar, Jirama, and from Air Madagascar, whose Chief Executive Officers were asked to resign by Andry Rajoelina, joined the protest against the government.

With signs showing the lack of enthusiasm of opposition supporters in the capital city on Tuesday, when less than 5000 followers attended the gathering called by Rajoelina, anti-government strike reportedly gathered strengthen in other areas of the Indian Ocean island.

According to the private radio, Antsiva, the general strike call by Rajoelina was widely followed in Ambositra, a region 258 km south of here.

The strikers blocked all the ways coming and to the administrations in Ambositra and the No. 7 highway linking the capital with the south.

Anti-government strike has escalated in other provinces such as Mahajanga to the northwest and Fianarantsoa to the southeast, according to the local website, sobika.

Tension between president Ravalomanana and his political rival, Rajoelina, seemed to escalate since the breakdown last weekend of their unsuccessful talks, which began on Feb. 21.

The current political crisis, which began last December, turned more intricate now with the set up of a national coordinating committee led by Rajoelina last Saturday by some 30 opposition political parties.

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Haile Menkerios, who arrived here last Friday, failed to convince Ravalomanana and Rajoelina to resume talks on Monday and again on Tuesday.


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