Four Opposition Members Captured in Failed Coup Attempt
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) _ An opposition group seized Madagascar’s state-run radio on Wednesday and declared the overthrow of the government, but they soon gave up and four participants were captured, officials said.
″The government is in control of the situation,″ Premier Guy Razamanasy said in a statement on radio and television. ″The city is calm and people are going about their regular activities.″
During its three-hour occupation, the group broadcast a taped message by a preacher, Michel Fety, who criticized the government of President Didier Ratsiraka and declared himself leader.
Razamanasy said it was unclear how many people were involved in the seizure. Some managed to escape before troops entered the building and captured four people. It was also not known whether Fety was among them.
Ndriana Razamanasy, the premier’s son, said the coup attempt was led by Liva Ramahozomanana, leader of a breakaway faction of the Living Forces opposition group. Ms. Ramahozomanana led a similar takeover in May 1990, during which three people died.
In the broadcast, the group threatened to blow up hydroelectric dams if the army intervened. Security forces assigned to protect the station appeared not to have resisted the takeover, although a few gunshots were heard.
Protests have shaken Madagascar for more than a year, with citizens demanding Ratsiraka give up the presidency, which he has held since 1975, calling himself a Marxist until recently.
Located on the world’s fourth largest island, in the Indian Ocean 250 miles east of Mozambique, Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest nations, with an average annual per capita income of $225. The 10 million islanders are of mixed African and Asian descent.
Following violent protests last summer, Ratsiraka dissolved parliament and an uneasy transition government was installed in October, with Ratsiraka retaining limited powers as head of state.
Albert Zafy, his chief opponent, leads a new state council charged with running the country until new elections are organized.
A constitution has been drafted and is to be put to a referendum on Aug. 19.