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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 16:04 GMT
Madagascar bans toy guns for Xmas
By Jonny Hogg
BBC News, Antananarivo

Some of the toy guns on display in Madagascar
Replica weapons are a much greater threat than obvious toys

The Madagascar authorities have launched a crackdown on toy guns and other fake military equipment in the run-up to Christmas.

Police chief Colonel Richard Ravalomanana says the ban is part of the fight against insecurity.

He says criminals use toy guns and neither the police, nor the public, know whether they are fake or real.

But some have condemned the move, which has seen military-style schoolbags and even trousers confiscated.

The police action is part of a wider operation to confiscate all military or fake military equipment that could lead to confusion as to whether someone is a policeman or not - a common trick used by criminals here.

Since the seizure of fake military equipment began last month, police say that crime has dropped.

Madagascar police chief Richard Ravalomanana
All boys like to play at being soldiers, but not always as the bad guys
Colonel Richard Ravalomanana

There have been no further reports of uniformed bandits where the operation has been carried out, hence the crackdown on toy guns.

Not all toy guns have been blacklisted - only ones that resemble those used by the military here.

However it has not been without controversy.

Andry, who witnessed the police carrying out their new duties, says they are going too far:

"I saw they had a man who had a military style bag and they took it from him - I don't think it's necessary."


Col Ravalomanana says this is not an attempt to stop children playing with guns, as has been reported.

He has a son himself and says he would be happy for him to have a toy weapon.

"All boys like to play at being soldiers, but not always as the bad guys because it's the military who maintain public order, who are the guardians of the law, who are the sheriffs of their area. That's the good side to it."

All the same, fake military uniforms are definitely not good presents this Christmas, but what about toy guns?

Well, people had better be familiar with the makes and models used by the military here, or they might find that playing soldiers could lead to a brush with the real thing.

Profile: Marc Ravalomanana
11 Mar 02 |  Africa
Country profile: Madagascar
19 Feb 05 |  Country profiles

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