Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Army raids Madagascar Constitutional Court

Antananarivo / April 28th 2009

Armed forces raided the offices of Madagascar's constitutional court on Monday, firing warning shots in the air and arresting at least three renegade soldiers.

An AFP correspondent saw several soldiers enter the building and fire at least three warning shots.

The military operation was aimed at rounding up remnants of the armed forces who have remained loyal to ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, several sources said.

Ravalomanana was toppled last month when a long-running opposition campaign led by Andry Rajoelina won the backing of the military, and was handed power by the Constitutional High Court.

Rajoelina formed an interim administration known as the High Transition Authority (HAT) and has promised to hold elections on the divided Indian Ocean island.

Sources said the men were rounded up because they had been seeking to destabilise the HAT, and had fired on Ravalomana's supporters during street demonstrations to call for his reinstatement.

At least four people were killed in political violence in Antananarivo last week.

"It is these militia, soldiers from the other camp, who are sowing terror from aboard their 4x4s," a source close to the HAT said, requesting anonymity.

She said that while the mainstream military had been blamed for such incidents, "in fact, it's them".

Several sources said at least three members of the security forces were beaten up and arrested in Monday's operation, while seven Kalashnikov rifles and five pistols were recovered.

"They arrested my husband. And I damn them for it. If I'm arrested tomorrow, you'll know why," said Ihanta Randriamandranto, the head of a pro-Ravalomanana women's group, and wife of the head of security at the Constitutional Court.

The court confirmed Rajoelina as acting president on March 18 after army chiefs transferred their allegiance and stormed Ravalomanana's offices, forcing him to step down and hand power to the opposition.

The international community has described Rajoelina's takeover as a coup and have refused to recognise his authority.