afrol News, 17 November - A group of officers claiming to have taken control of Madagascar's government seem to have been isolated at their military barracks at the Antananarivo airport. Calm has returned to the Malagasy capital.
The coup was announced earlier today by Colonel Charles Andrianasoavina, who together with General Noël Rakotonandrasana and another 20 army officers made a statement to the press saying a "military council for the welfare of the people" had taken control of Madagascar.
Colonel Andrianasoavina said the transitional government, ruling Madagascar since the March 2009 coup of Anry Rajoelina, was now suspended. The putschists promised to "restore democracy" and seek "national reconciliation."
The group had installed itself in barracks at the Bani army base close to the Antananarivo airport and was obviously counting on wider army and popular support for an announced storming of the presidential palace. Reports from Antananarivo indicate Colonel Andrianasoavina could have been given promises of support that were not lived up to.
According to Malagasy journalists, the announced coup was barely noticed by Antananarivo residents. Leaflets with the announcement by Colonel Andrianasoavina were handed out close to the Bani army base and an SMS campaign called on supporters of the opposition to take to the streets.
Several hundred civilians supporting the coup took to the streets in Antanarivo's Ivato suburb, close to the coupist army barracks. Here, they put up road blocks, set fire on tires and managed to close the access to the capital's airport.
However, Malagasy journalists report, armed forces loyal to transitional leader Rajoelina attacked the civilian protesters with tear gas and gunshots. "about 18:30, traffic to the airport was restored, although with vehicle controls at police ro
Colonel Charles Andrianasoavina claimed to have toppled the Malagasy government
adblocks," 'Madagascar Tribune' reports from Antananarivo.
Colonel Andrianasoavina at the same time made a second statement, calling on "brothers in the armed forces" to flock to his barracks and support the power take-over. Reports from Antananarivo however indicate no parts of the Malagasy armed forces have followed the coupists' call, and the group remains isolated at the Bani army base.
Transitional Prime Minister Camille Vital meanwhile went on state television, saying government was staying "in control" and claiming the coup announcement only was made to "discredit" today's controversial referendum over a new constitution that would legitimise Mr Rajoelina's grip on power.
Also transitional leader Rajoelina made a short television appearance, playing down the coup attempt. He made it clear that he still remained firmly in control of the situation.
While it currently seems that forces loyal to Mr Rajoelina are in control, the coup attempt is a severe setback to the ex-DJ, who himself came to power in a coup. Colonel Andrianasoavina indeed had been among the army officers supporting Mr Rajoelina's coup 20 moths ago.
As South Africa-brokered negotiations to restore a constitutional order in Madagascar failed earlier this year, the Malagasy army was deeply split. The army leadership however managed to threaten Mr Rajoelina into yet another round of negotiations, which also failed.
Today's controversial referendum that is set to split the Indian Ocean nation even further, together with the split in the Malagasy army, do not bode well. Further coup attempts may be expected.
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