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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Madagascar protest turns violent
By Richard Hamilton
BBC, Antananarivo

An anti-government demonstration attended by 10,000 people in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo has ended in violence.

An anti-government demonstration attended by 10,000 people in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo
The opposition says government supporters broke up their meeting

An angry crowd tore up the podium where members of the opposition were due to speak.

It has been alleged that they were paid by the government to disrupt the protest.

The government however has denied the accusation.

"This was a spontaneous and uncontrollable reaction in a crowd that became more and more heated as time went on," the president's advisor Didier Rakotorisoa told the BBC.

I am sure there are elements here who are working for the authorities
Student

The 13 May is an important date in Madagascar, as it commemorates the overthrow of the first President Philibert Tsiranana following demonstrations in 1972.

A year ago street protests over several months led to the overthrow of President Didier Ratsiraka.

This year the KMMR movement wanted to use the date to voice its opposition to the current regime but it never got the chance to speak.

"I am sure there are elements here who are working for the authorities... I can see people from the president's TIM (party) here. And the military is not doing anything at all to intervene," said a student.

Sabotage accusations

"What has happened here is very bizarre as you can see things haven't turned out as we might have expected. People think that democracy rules in our country but for the moment it doesn't seem to be working because in a democracy it is very important that everyone can say what they want," said another protestor.

However, some of the pro-government supporters accuse the KMMR of sabotaging the rally so they could blame the government and draw attention to the demonstration.

Support for President Marc Ravalomanana's TIM party was huge in December's election and there is little opposition in parliament.

So perhaps it's all the more surprising that the government seems to be so afraid of criticism.

But if this is the way they deal with the opposition Mr Ravalomanana's honeymoon may come to an untimely end.




SEE ALSO:
Madagascar coup arrest
19 Feb 03  |  Africa
Madagascar leader routs rivals
23 Dec 02  |  Africa
Madagascar poll 'unfair'
17 Dec 02  |  Africa
Country profile: Madagascar
06 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Madagascar
06 May 03  |  Country profiles


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