Coup attempt foiled in Madagascar: officer

10:18, April 19, 2010      

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A coup attempt was foiled on Sunday in Madagascar after the minister of armed forces in the Indian Ocean island country was sacked early in the month, according to the military.

Seven military officers and civilians planning to attack the leadership between Sunday night and Monday morning were arrested in the afternoon, announced colonel Rene Lilison, who heads the force of special intervention of the presidency.

The arrestees were captured around 1 p. m., Lilison told a press conference. They were shown to journalists before being transferred to a brigade of the gendarmerie stationed at Betongolo near the Defense Ministry.

Army chief Andre Ndriarijaona said the armed forces were still united, adding the suspects had recruited ex-military personnel, reservists and soldiers for peaceful purposes, proving that they had no control of the armed forces in service, who remain united.

The president of the security commission of the Highest Transitional Authority (HAT), Alain Ramaroson, disclosed that the coup attempt was foiled thanks to the information provided by police.

"Without the information they provided, this coup d'état could have been realized," Ramaroson declared.

The military reportedly developed signs of division since Prime Minister Camille Vital dismissed former minister of armed forces Noel Rakotonandrasana On April 7.

Vital said Rakotonandrasana had held suspicious meetings with senior officers without informing him, accusing him of causing confusion in the military ranks.

HAT President Andry Rajoelina made no comments on Ravalomanana's dismissal, but soon promoted colonel Vital to the rank of brigadier general, indicating the logic that colonel Vital could not overpower general Rakotonandrasana over the control of military officers, without the necessary promotion.

But Rakotonandrasana insists that he will still hold his post unless the prime minister himself comes to him so that he could hand over power. He says he will accept the dismissal if all the military officers want him to leave.

Rakotonandrasana was the main actor in the process of power transfer to Rajoelina, who ousted former president Marc Ravalomanana with the backing of the military in March 2009. The change is widely seen as unconstitutional.

Last month, the African Union imposed sanctions on Rajoelina and 108 other officials for failing to form a new government with the three camps respectively led by former presidents Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy.

The four parties reached agreements in Maputo and Addis Ababa last year on power sharing, but failed to carry them out amid differences.

On Wednesday, Rajoelina admitted that France, South Africa and the Southern African Development Community had proposed a new roadmap to end the crisis after last year's international mediation failed.

He said he had accepted the offer and would meet Ravalomanana on April 24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss the signing of a new agreement. He also promised that the other two camps would share the future government if the planned talks turn out a success.



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