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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 13:27 GMT
Madagascar army 'switches sides'
Ravalomanana┐s supporters erecting a barricade in Antananarivo
Opposition demonstrators are unopposed by the army
The opposition leader and self-declared president of Madagascar, Mark Ravalomanana, says he has taken over as commander of the country's armed forces.

Mr Ravalomanana told his supporters in the capital, Antananarivo, that he had also appointed a high-profile general, Jules Mamizara, as his defence minister.

"From now on I will take orders from President Ravalomanana only

General Jules Mamizara
Despite the imposition of martial law in Antananarivo, soldiers stood by as crowds escorted opposition figures named by Mr Ravalomanana as ministers to their government offices.

Tension has continued in this island state off the east coast of Africa since the mayor of the capital, Marc Ravalomanana, alleged that the 16 December presidential election had been fixed.

Backed by huge rallies, he declared himself president on 22 February.

Violent protests

The incumbent president, Didier Ratsiraka, declared martial law and appointed a military governor last week.

"From now on I will take orders from President Ravalomanana only," General Mamizara said during a ceremony at the Antananarivo city hall also attended by several senior officers.

Marc Ravalomanana
Ravalomanana: installing his own government

Over the weekend opposition supporters threw up barricades across the capital, to prevent the army from entering the city and enforcing martial law.

The incumbent government has been without effective control of the civil service since its staff went on strike more than three weeks ago.

The BBC Alastair Leithead says the appointment of a high profile general to the parallel government and the absence of military involvement on the streets appears to be a further boost to Mr Ravalomanana's efforts to get the civil servants working for him.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo
"Will this defence minister be able to put the army behind Marc Ravalomanana?"
See also:

28 Feb 02 | Africa
Martial law imposed in Madagascar
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