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Chief of General-Staff of Madagascan Army changed
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09:14, March 12, 2009

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Chief of the General-Staff of the Madagascan Army was changed on Wednesday with the discharge of general Edmond Rasolomahandry appointed by President Marc Ravalomanana just one month earlier.

The new Chief of General-Staff, Colonel André Ndriarijaona, took office on the bottom of dissension within the security forces during a brief ceremony at the headquarters of the General-Staff.

He was nominated by his rebel colleagues, who refused to obey orders from the government led by Ravalomanana to prevent anti-government demonstrations by the opposition supporters at the city center.

In Madagascar, Chief of the General-Staff of the army is normally appointed by the president.

The replacement of the army chief implicitly reveals mistrust of the army forces against the head of state Ravalomanana, who has been in power since 2002.

The decision to replace of Edmond Rasolomahandry was made at the time when he gave policy-makers of the country an ultimatum of 72 hours to find a solution to the political crisis on Tuesday, failing which the armed forces would "run national affairs".

It is not clear at the moment if the ultimatum will be maintained by the new Chief of the General-Staff.

The replacement of the army chief also took place at the time when the Defense Minister Mamy Solofoniaina Ranaivoniarivo was force to sign a letter of resignation on Tuesday.

Media here reported that commanders of nine military barracks over the mountainous capital city joined force with some 600 rebel troops of the Army Corps of Personnel and Administrative and Technical Services, stationed at Soanierana, six kilometers from the city center.

Last Sunday, armed troops at Soanierana announced disobedience to orders from the regime to suppress the anti-government demonstrators.

It was reported here that the defense minister Ranaivoniarivo signed his letter of resignation at the gunpoint of the mutineers.

The rebel soldiers arrested one of the presidential guards and killed a policeman in civilian dress on his way near the barracks on Sunday evening, the private TV-Plus channel reported.

No armed troops have been seen since Monday at the roads to and from the city center, where the opposition had called anti-government gatherings ever since last December.

With the absence of the armed troops on the streets, bloody confrontations between supporters of Ravalomanana and Rajoelina have been continued in several locations of the city, causing dozens of casualties since Monday.

With the revolt of the armed forces, President Ravalomanana has to face the newly emerged situation, in which he must handle the challenge by his political rival, the sacked Antananarivo mayor Rajoelina.

The opposition leader has refused to participate in a planned three-day national consultation from the coming Thursday, a result of the mediation of the United Nations and the influential Christian Council of Churches in Madagascar.

The movement of Rajoelina said that "climate is not calm for such a meeting and that the Christian churches 'is not credible' to organize this kind of consultation. "

Rajoelina, nicknamed TGV, who lived hidden from an attempted arrest last week, was placed under United Nations protection after spending several days at the residence of French Ambassador to Madagascar.


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