Madagascar army says contains mutiny in military camp

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 22, 2012 5:20 AM
Madagascar army says contains mutiny in military camp

By Alain Iloniaina

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Mutinous soldiers stormed a military camp near Madagascar's main airport on Sunday and the army said it had contained the fighting and there was no risk of the violence spreading.

The island nation has been wrecked by political turmoil and violence in the three years since then-opposition leader Andry Raojelina ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, who has been in self-imposed exile in South Africa since his overthrow.

"... at 5 a.m. a group of armed soldiers forced their way into the barracks of the 1st RFI (First Regiment of Interventionist Forces) Ivato. The group fired in the air, hindering all attempts to enter into the barracks," an army statement said.

Soldiers and gendarmes were now positioned around the barracks and "the events happening inside the camp do not risk overflowing to the outside", it said.

The army said Corporal Koto Mainty, a former bodyguard of a former army minister and known as "Black", had led the revolt.

In September, Madagascar's major political parties signed a roadmap mediated by a regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which confirmed Rajoelina as president, allowed for the unconditional return of Ravalomanana and paved the way for elections within a year.

Rajoelina led often-violent street protests against Ravalomanana and eventually seized power in March 2009 with the help of dissident army officers in what many aid donors considered a coup, leading them to freeze non-emergency aid.

Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the run-up to his removal. He has tried to return to Madagascar without success.

Rajoelina has said the return of the former leader risked stoking tensions and a senior cabinet minister said in September that Ravalomanana would be arrested on arrival.

The rival leaders are due to meet for reconciliation talks next week in the Seychelles, according to an aide to Ravalomanana.

Armed Force Minister General Lucien Rakotoarimasy told Reuters the soldiers' motivations were unclear.

"We are trying to bring them back to reason," he said.

Famed for its lemurs and rainforests, Madagascar's tourism industry has been badly hit by the insecurity, and investors eyeing its oil, gold and chrome have also become more wary.

(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Writing by Yara Bayoumy in Nairobi; Editing by Louise Ireland)