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Madagascan police open fire to disperse anti-gov't demonstrators

MADAGASCAN police opened fire and threw tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of supporters of former President Marc Ravalomanana, who reportedly flew to South Africa from Swaziland yesterday.

The demonstrators began gathering at the city center park, Ambohijatovo, from yesterday morning and marched to the May 13 square, where Andry Rajoelina often called anti-Ravalomanana demonstrations since last December, in the afternoon, when the police tried to stop them with gun shots and tear gas.

Unconfirmed reports said that several were shot dead or injured during the confrontation between the police and the demonstrators, who have continued their protest against Rajoelina, the former Antananarivo Mayor who sworn in as president of the island country last weekend.

A private radio, Antsiva, said that the police and armed troops which supported Rajoelina took their responsibilities to disperse the demonstrators to avoid possible killing, mass looting and robberies by the bandits who took advantages of the confrontation between the two sides.

Ravalomanana's supporters threatened to stop the work of all administrations and to close all schools over the country from next Monday in their protest against Andry Rajoelina, proclaimed president of the country early last February.

Ravalomanana resigned on March 17 after handing over his presidency to a military executive committee led by Navy Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson, the oldest and most senior military official in Madagascar.

Hyppolite Ramaroson transferred the presidential power to Rajoelina just a few hours later and the High Constitutional Courtlegalized his presidency the day after.

In another development, the French-language daily, Midi, reported yesterday that Madagascan Ambassadors to South Africa, Denis Andriamandroso, to Brussels, Jeannot Rakotomalala, to France, Narisoa Rajaonarivony, to Ethiopia, Jean-Pierre Rakotoarivony and to Germany, Ralison Alphonse, were dismissed from their position by Rajoelina on Friday but their successors had not yet been appointed.

Media here quoted Rajoelina as saying on Friday night soon after a government council meeting that the High Transitional Authority would be operational from next Monday and the remaining ministers of the transitional government would be appointed next Wednesday.

Rajoelina called all stakeholders in the country to participate in a national conference scheduled for early next month to prepare for the next national election.

However, Madagascan non-governmental organizations said at a press conference on Friday that the national conference should be postponed sine die.


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