afrol News, 19 April - Madagascar's current leader Andry Rajoelina today claims toppled President Marc Ravalomanana organised a coup plot this weekend. 18 persons were arrested on Sunday, allegedly plotting to overthrow Mr Rajoelina. Mr Ravalomanana denies any involvement.
The Malagasy leader, who himself came to power in a March 2009 coup against Mr Ravalomanana, today announced that the island nation's Special Intervention Force had arrested 18 persons suspected of plotting a coup.
The defence spokesman of Mr Rajoelina's administration, Alain Ramaroson, said that two of the detained persons had confessed that ex-President Ravalomanana "had paid" them to attack the Prime Minister's residence. "It is Mr Ravalomanana that is the sponsor of the coup," Mr Ramaroson claimed.
According to the transitional government, the Special Intervention Force had caught the suspects as they were preparing to storm the PM's residence. The alleged coup was to take place during the night between Sunday and Monday. The plotters were said to being on their way to meet with army reservists that were to participate in the alleged coup, also providing arms.
Alain Ramaroson is his statement today said that, given the "coup plot", he doubted that the planned Johannesburg meeting between strongman Rajoelina and ex-President Ravalomanana could take place.
The Johannesburg meeting was planned as a result of strong pressure from Madagascar's armed forces against Mr Rajoelina, urging him to present a roadmap to end the political crisis in Madagascar. Mr Rajoelina had earlier stalled further talks with ex-leaders, causing the African Union (AU) and Madagascar's main trade partners to impose sanctions against his regime.
Only army pressure last week led Mr Rajoelina to accept renewed talks about a power-sharing arrangement with Mr Ravalomanana. Malagasy observers critical towards current leader Rajoelina therefore have been quick to note that the alleged coup plot was very convenient for the transitional government, giving it a good opportunity to cancel the Johannesburg talks.
Even newspapers published in Madagascar, such as 'Madagascar Tribune', consequently use inverted commas when writing about the "coup plot", indicating there will be much debate around whether such a plot has actually taken place.
But some analyses also indicated that a coup plot indeed was likely. The Malagasy army has been split since the March 2009 coup. It was the non-acting of the army that helped Mr Rajoelina to power, but a majority of the army leadership now is sceptical towards the self-proclaimed Malagasy leader. The army leadership nevertheless is strongly against a coup - at least at this stage - but there are strong pro-Ravalomanana elements in the armed forces.
Mr Ravalomanana this evening has issued a statement, forwarded to afrol News, denying any involvement in the alleged coup. "I firmly deny any involvement in an attempt to bring the political crisis to an end through undemocratic means," the ex-President says. "Any rumours suggesting otherwise are completely untrue. I have always supported a democratic resolution to the crisis as the only solution and I continue to do so. To suggest otherwise for political purposes is cynical and potentially destabilising."
Mr Ravalomanana urges his rival to go on with the Johannesburg meeting and the agreed roadmap out of the crisis. "We cannot jeopardise the path to democracy with so much at stake. Only democratic elections will give us the stability we need to get back on the right track," he says.
The ex-President adds: "I condemn any military coup. I believe the people should be allowed to choose their President in free and fair elections. We cannot allow these rumours to be used as an excuse to delay the return of the free and fair elections that the Malagasy people so desperately need."
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