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Supporters of Deposed Madagascar President to Hold Rally Wednesday

Supporters of deposed Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana are expected to hold a political rally today (Wednesday) to know their next line of action after their leader resigned Tuesday under opposition pressure. Some Malagasies fear the meeting could potentially lead to clashes with supporters of the opposition in the ongoing political crisis. President Ravalomanana handed over power to the military Tuesday following a protracted political struggle with deposed Antananarivo mayor Andry Rajoelina. But the military declined to accept the handover, saying it was not interested in ruling the country setting the stage for the opposition leader to take over power. The military had so far backed the opposition leader during the power struggle. Mialy Randriamampianina is a Malagasy journalist. She tells reporter Peter Clottey that Malagasies are afraid of a possible civil war after the president resigned under pressure.

"So today, the partisans of the former President Marc Ravalomanana are going to be having some kind of rally at the municipal stadium (called the Mahasima). We heard on the radio station owned by the former President Marc Ravalomanana calling on the population, all the partisans and all those who work for Ravalomanana to be there at the rally grounds today," Randriamampianina noted.

She said there seems to be great uncertainty about the need for the rally in support of the deposed president, adding that most people fear there could be clashes with supporters of the opposition leader.

"There is great confusion among the people because up to now we don't really have any information about what the rally is going to be about and what they are going to do. And again we are worried about trouble in terms of clashes between supporters of Marc Ravalomanana and the supporters of Andry Rajoelina. There was an event just over a week ago where there were some confrontations and violence between the two camps. So, that kind of rally like that always create trouble and we are worried about violence in this country," she said.

Randriamampianina said the opposition leader rejected President Ravalomanana's decision to hand over power to the military.

"The opposition said they totally disagree with the military taking over power and the army also agreed with the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina," Randriamampianina pointed out.

She said Malagasies are wondering about the whereabouts of deposed President Ravalomanana although initial reports suggested the former president had sought protection at the United States Embassy in the capital, Antananarivo.

"We really don't know where the former president is at the moment. But there were some rumors that the American Embassy is doing its best to protect him. But the ambassador of the United States denied the rumor. So right now we really don't know where he (Ravalomanana) is," she said.

Randriamampianina said although some people expressed joy at the president's resignation, others worried the situation could get worse.

"At the first instance there were people who were really happy because Marc Ravalomanana resigned which is such big news. But you know the military running the affairs here is not really good for the country because we experienced 10 years ago, and so the people are worried about what might happen. People are also worried about what is going to happen in the near future because of confrontation between supporters of the former president and the opposition leader and fear of a possible war especially civil war in this country," Randriamampianina noted.

Despite concerns from the international community that the opposition leader should have gone to the ballot box, Andry Rajoelina appeared to have sufficient domestic support to consolidate power. Supporters of Rajoelina, who began street protests since the start of 2009 pressured the president into stepping down, immediately assumed authority, marching into Ravalomanana's city-centre offices.

Meanwhile, some members of the military who are backing the main opposition leader detained four military generals and one Christian church leader following a meeting between the generals, Rajoelina and the Christian Church leaders on Tuesday afternoon, in which the opposition was informed of the president's decision to resign and hand over power to the military.

The arrest comes after a reported quarrel between the pro-government generals, who announced President Marc Ravalomanana's decision to hand over power to the military, and the opposition supporters from the armed forces.

The African Union has been urging all Malagasy parties to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the deposed Marc Ravalomanana who resigned the presidency under pressure from the opposition and the armed forces.

The African body also urged the Malagasy parties to uphold the spirit of dialogue and compromise in order to find a peaceful and consensual solution to the crisis, with the assistance of representatives of the international community in Antananarivo.