By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – The Madagascar military raided the headquarters of a rebel group that was attempting to overthrow the government. The rebel group, made up of 20 senior military leaders, staged the coup attempt on Wednesday, November 17 and claimed to have overthrown the government of President Rajoelina and taken control of the small island nation. However, this declaration seemed unlikely since the rebels had not taken physical control of a single government office or building. On Friday, November 19, Madagascar’s Armed Forces Minister, Lucien Rakotoarimasy, told residents living around the military barracks where the rebels were operating to evacuate. On Saturday, November 20, government forces loyal to President Rajoelina stormed the rebel barracks and arrested the military officers. The rebels had been operating out of a military barracks near the Madagascar capital of Antananarivo.
The operation involved 100 government soldiers and led to the arrest of sixteen people. Initial reports detailing the raid described an exchange of gunfire between government forces and the mutineers that lasted for 15-20 minutes. Furthermore, a Madagascar army official claims that the leaders responsible for the coup attempt were ready to give themselves up but lower ranking soldiers opened fire on the government forces as they approached the barracks. No injuries were reported in the operation.
The raid came a day after rebel leaders had met with government officials in an effort to broker an end to the attempted coup without violence. After talks between the two sides broke down, government forces sprang into action.
The Madagascar government reported that the military leaders responsible for the coup attempt have been arrested and interrogated. Furthermore, the sixteen dissidents have been charged with rebellion and threatening the security of the state. The suspects have now been separated, ten of the suspects were sent to a prison while six others were still being held in military police barracks for further questioning.
Quickly ending the rebellion or attempted coup was an important goal of President Rajoelina’s administration. It was important for the government to appear in control and to remain credible with the citizenry. As the attempted coup dragged on, it was becoming a political issue for President Rojaoelina’s government as news began circulating that government soldiers were no longer following orders and the chain of command was deteriorating.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera — Madagascar forces storm rebel base – 20 November 2010
BBC Africa —Soldiers end Madagascar officer ‘mutiny’ – 20 November 2010
New York Times — Mutineers Split Over Surrender in Madagascar – 20 November 2010
Reuters–Madagascar tells families to leave rebel barracks – 20 November 2010