Accessibility links

Madagascar Opposition Leader Wants President Arrested

Madagascar's opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has called for the arrest and resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana. But the president says he will not step down and instead has offered to hold a referendum.

The political standoff in Madagascar continues as the self-proclaimed interim president of the country, Andry Rajoelina, told supporters he was ordering security forces to arrest President Marc Ravalomanana so that he could take office.

On Sunday the 34-year-old former mayor of the capital called for supporters to meet Monday at a plaza in central Antananarivo.

He said he would have a big announcement to make, a big decision.

Rajoelina said the arrest order was for high treason. On Saturday he gave the president four hours to resign.

Mr. Ravalomanana appeared before several thousand of his supporters Sunday and rejected the resignation demand.

He said he will remain in power until the end of his term. And he said "the democratic process remains fundamental."

President Ravalomanana instead offered to hold a referendum on his record, which was quickly rejected by his rival. The president's term is due to end in two years.

The African Union held an emergency meeting Monday in Ethiopia. The bloc is due to hold its annual summit in Madagascar later this year.

The General-Secretary of the Francophone Union, Senegal's former president Abdou Diouf, sent a special envoy to mediate the confrontation.

The United Nations, which has also sent a special envoy, has expressed concern over the crisis. Western governments have indicated any unconstitutional seizure of power would lead to a cut-off of aid.

Elements of the armed forces say they are no longer taking orders from the president because they refuse to shoot at their own people.

Some officers have expressed sympathy for Rajoelina but say they will not interfere in the crisis. The army chief said Sunday his top priority is to restore order.

Church leaders have been trying to mediate talks, but Rajoelina withdrew from the negotiations last week.

The confrontation began several months ago when the government shut down a radio station owned by Rajoelina, after he accused the president of corruption and authoritarianism.

At least 100 people have been killed in the crisis, which has hurt tourism and foreign investment.