Conflict & Justice

Soldiers mutiny in Madagascar proves unsuccessful


Security forces stand guard in the center of Antananrivo, Madagascar, on May 19, 2012, after 3000 to 5000 people gathered in the city center for a demonstration called by the main opposition radio, Free FM. The police violently dispersed the non-authorised protest and arrested several people.



Soldiers at a Madagascar army military camp attempted an ultimately unsuccessful mutiny today, the Wall Street Journal reports, taking over a barracks located near the airport in Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo.

Government forces quickly jumped into the fray, and eventually managed to subdue the rebels. Although government soldiers did allegedly attempt to negotiate with the rebels, their efforts were met with violence, according to the Wall Street Journal: an officer sent in to parlay was shot and killed. 

The government soldiers eventually managed to take back the base and capture the mutineers, although the rebel's leader was killed, as was another government soldier in the fighting. 

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According to The Australian, the leader of the rebels was identified as Koto Mainty, otherwise known as the Black Corporal. The Australian added that a diplomatic source had speculated the mutiny was held to disrupt a meeting between current president Andry Rajoelina  - who came to power in a military coup of his own in 2009 - and former deposed president Marc Ravalomanana.

The meeting allegedly was set up so the men could discuss the prospect of new elections, reports the Australian. 

 A diplomatic source suggested to The Australian that Sunday's mutiny was aimed at disrupting the meeting between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, which was slated for Wednesday in the Seychelles. 

Flights out of the airport were canceled, and the Wall Street Journal reports that they are not expected to resume until Monday, potentially temporarily stranding some visitors. 

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Civil unrest has also hit Madagascar in the past few months: in May, thousands of citizens showed up at an opposition rally organized by radio station Free FM, which was violently broken up by police, AFP reports. 

Mutinies are a proven path to power in this oft-ignored island nation: 33-year-old Rajoelina came to power after a military coup forced then-president Ravalomanana into exile in South Africa. The move was censured by the international community, and Madagascar was booted out of both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, rendering it a political pariah. 

Ravalomanana, according to Radio Netherlands, is exceptionally unpopular in Madagascar following his brutal behavior during the military coup that deposed him: victims of the 2009 coup - which killed 36 people -have sent him a summons over a $23 million lawsuit, reports Radio Netherlands. He is slated to appear in court in South Africa on August 1st. 

Previously the mayor of Antananarivo (and a radio DJ), Rajoelina is a divisive figure and does not have the popular support an elected official might enjoy. Nor is he known as a particularly strong leader: the New York Times reports that "...Many of his ministers don't respect him. Some skip cabinet meetings." His persistent promises to stage democratic elections remain unrealized.