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Madagascar Appears Politically Split, Says Journalist

The deposed mayor of Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo is urging his supporters to wear black and white today in remembrance of those who lost their lives during a protest march at the presidential palace over the weekend. Andry Rajoelina is also accusing the government of failing to protect the Malagasy population, which he claims are exercising their freedom of expression. This comes after President Marc Ravalomanana's government issued arrest warrants against those complicit in the violence. Rajoelina also vowed to continue the protest until there is a change in what he claims to be Ravalomanana's dictatorial tendencies. Some political analysts say it is unclear who is named in the arrest warrant, although opposition leader Rajoelina called for the protest.

Malagasy journalist Mialy Randriamampianina tells reporter Peter Clottey that the country seems to be split between partisans of President Ravalomanana and the former mayor Rajoelina.

"Today, Mr. Andry Rajoelina asked the people to wear black and white in order to respect the people who died from the events on Saturday. He also asked the people to stay calm, saying that there wouldn't be any protest today. And on the other hand President Marc Ravalomanana asked the people as well as government employees to go to work, the students to go to school, to go about their businesses as if nothing had ever happened over the weekend. So we don't really know how the people are going to be reacting to the different talks from the two people. But we would see how the people would react today," Randriamampianina noted.

She said there seems to be a deep division in the Malagasy society in the country's body politic.

"The fact is that the people in the capital, Antananarivo and all over the Madagascar are divided into two. Some of them are really for Marc Ravalomanana, and some of them are also for Andry Rajoelina, and there is also another part that stays on quiet and on the fence. The fact is also that there is great uncertainty about what is going to be happening next in Madagascar and especially here in Antananarivo. We really don't know how the people would be reacting with all the things going on. But I guess the events would determine how the people would be reacting in the future. So we will see," she said.

Randriamampianina said President Ravalomanana has so for not responded to the opposition leader's accusation that he should be held accountable for the death of the civilians killed during the protest over the weekend.

"You know, the President Marc Ravalomanana hasn't really reacted to the accusations so far. All he said was that the people should remain calm. He also said that the people who were killed did not follow the law because they were trying to enter into the palace, which is owned by the president himself. So he didn't really react to the accusations. Even during his announcement on the television on Sunday, he didn't say anything about it," Randriamampianina pointed out.

She said the government is yet to come out to announce an investigation into the death of the protesters.

"Nothing like that has been said, although the government told people to remain calm on Sunday. And that they should behave as usual and go about their business as if nothing has happened. There is also nothing about any investigation into the death of those who went on the protest over the weekend. They didn't say anything about it and told the population to remain calm," she said.

Rajoelina has launched a case to remove President Ravalomanana legally, with the two houses of parliament and the constitutional court, which has already declared him incompetent to rule on the matter. Ravalomanana has kept an unusually low profile since the start of the crisis, insisting simply that he was still in charge, and last week relieved Rajoelina from his duties as mayor of Antananarivo.

Rajoelina accuses the president of misappropriating public money, which he claims endangers the county's young democracy. But questions about whether the opposition is offering real solutions have intensified since the violence in late January, and the crowds he has been drawing has since then have shrunk. The president has indicated Rajoelina seems to the front man for more established figures in a country known for infighting among small political elite.