Madagascar: Violence Erupts Between Army and Dissident Police Unit

On May, 20th 2010, sustained gun battles between rival armed forces lasted for an hour in the capital city of Madagascar, Antananarivo. The ongoing political crisis has once again erupted into violence as a report from the local Red Cross states that at least three people were wounded in the clash (fr). A gathering composed of hundred civilians and backed by a dissident faction of the police (Forces d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale: FIGN) was surrounded by a unit of the army (état-major mixte opérationnel régional: Emmo-Reg), then fires were exchanged. The FIGN leader colonel Raymond Andrianjafy explained that the reason for the gathering at Andrainarivo-Mausolée, was to allow civilians to voice their disapproval of the current situation and try to find a solution to the crisis (fr). The FIGN was there to prevent the gathering from being repressed, he said.

Update: Madagascar Tribune reports that there were a total of four fatal casualties from the gun battles (fr). Preacher Rivo Arison Ranaivo was among the victims as a communique from the Association of the Protestant Churches confirmed (fr).

The clash comes a few days after a local radio was attacked by a special unit of the army on May 17th while an opposition leader Ambroise Ravonison and another on-air guest, Harrison Razafindrakoto were interviewed on a live broadcast.

Bloggers and twitterers in Madagascar were first to report the gun shots in the morning:

Pierre Maury in Antananarivo tweeted that the gun shots started at 9:42 am local time were intense and lasted for at least 45 minutes.

InvestGasy reported that three military trucks were seen approaching the meeting point and that a few stores downtown have closed.

Jentilisa who was at the gathering posted the following update at 11 am local time (mg):

Tsy tafiditra Mausolée intsony ny olona saiky hankao taorian'ny fanafihana teo. Manohy ny hira sy ny vavaka izay efa tafiditra Mausolée

People cannot enter the Mausolee anymore after the confrontation. Those who are inside have resumed the singing and prayers.

Ranjachrys, also on site, confirmed that the group prayers have continued while the clash occurred. He also reports that a preacher has been arrested afterwards.

Tomavana, a blogger residing in Geneva, has amplified the updates from local bloggers on different social media platforms and compiled an extensive timeline of the events as told by twitterers:

archives of twitter updates from Madagascar

Twitterers Tomavana, Sameganegie and Dotmg are urging people to be aware that a lot of the so-called information that are heard on various radios and twitter updates should be taken with cautious skepticism. Many of those were proven to be either inaccurate or pure propaganda. They have coined the hash tag #fvtm ( short for: filazana vaovao tsy marina that translates to “signaling false information”) on twitter to highlights false information.

The situation is still developing and we will provide updates here as more reports are confirmed.

Here  are real-time twitter updates that contain #Madagascar.

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