Coup attempt reported in Madagascar

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretoria - The President of Madagascar's Highest Transitional Authority (HAT), Andry Rajoelina, has reaffirmed control of the state machinery despite an alleged attempted coup d'etat in the Indian Ocean island country on Wednesday.

"Contrary to what was being reported in foreign countries, you can see that all institutions are still intact. Our senior military officials, the prime minister as well as the armed forces minister are still serving in their respective positions," he said on Wednesday, after a group of military officers announced their take-over of state power earlier in the day.

The incident occurred against the backdrop of a national referendum on a new constitution to consolidate Rajoelina's grip on power.

Yesterday, millions of people in Madagascar voted on a constitutional referendum to either approve or reject a new constitution, a vital step toward national legislative and presidential elections next year, and toward normalisation of diplomatic relations with its African neighbours and with its trading partners.

The HAT president promised that action will be taken against officers who attempted to carry out a mutiny.

Rajoelina confirmed that he had received death threats "from some army colonels" warning him to step down.

He however reiterated his willingness to continue with the ongoing process to end the country's political crisis through the constitutional referendum being held on Wednesday.

"I am not scared of these death threats. I have trust in the God who has always guided me from the beginning," Rajoelina said.

He was speaking while waiting for the announcement of the results of the referendum from the polling station.

Observers termed Rajoelina's decision to go to the polling station as a bold move since it came just hours after the announcement of the attempted coup.

Tensions in the island have resulted in hardship for the impoverished island. Western countries, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have frozen all but humanitarian and emergency aid and conservation projects are suffering.

Various foreign mediators have tried to resurrect the island's democracy, trying to work out an agreement between Rajoelina and three of the nation's past presidents.

But the mutual hatreds among the men have prevented any real solution. On occasion, deals have been announced, but the agreements break down.