The political crisis in Madagascar, unfolding since late January, took yet another turn today with the sound of gun shots and tear gas, as police and protestors clashed all over Antananarivo, the capital city.
Since the first meeting between President Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina more than a week ago, hopes for a swift resolution are fading as disagreements over the terms of the negotiations have led to a call for a national strike of undetermined length.
XinHua and Gabonews report that on March 2nd, the day following the call for a strike, only a small, timid minority (fr) participated. However, opposition was excepted to take a harder stance following the collapse of the negotiations, as Courrier International explains (fr).
Malagasy website Topmada reports that in his public speech at 9 am on March 3rd, Rajoelina asked his supporters to take note of the companies that did not follow his call for strike (fr):
“On connaîtra à partir de demain (mercredi) les sociétés et entreprises qui roulent pour Ravalomanana”
On March 3rd, Radio Antsiva, one of the few national radio stations, annouced that it would stop broadcasting for at least 24 hours, stirring fears of new violence. The following day, bloggers also reported that the national public radio (RNM) went silent for a few hours. Many bloggers also reported a massive military presence in Downtown Antananarivo.
The violence on March 4th spread out throughout the city, so bloggers reported the unrest on Twitter and Facebook as events unfolded in their respective neighborhoods. Corroborating reports were then matched up on the Ushahidi mash-up map for Madagascar for verification. Below are the reports for March 4th in Antananarivo:
Some of the comments on the Malagasy blogosphere/twittersphere were quite telling of the extent of the unrest.
Thierry Ratsizehena wrote via Facebook Mobile (fr):
j'ai un mal de tete horrible apres avoir inhale une partie de la fumee des grenades lacrymogenes en milieu de journee
Andry Rarivoson adds (fr):
ils ont voulu balancer une voiture sur les militaires. en ce moment, les gens sont en train de prendre les pieces de la voiture abandonnée
pas moyen de rentrer à la maison behoririka est un champ de bataille
He adds (mg):
nisy mpianatra nendahana ka niboridana tanteraka tao ceg antanimena s/radio don bosco
Tahina was in Ampefiloha, another district, when he posted:
Gun shots heard at ampefiloha but I don’t know where they come from
Arinaiana posted early in the morning what many felt by the end of the day:
I feel like in a war movie. I can't believe it's real. I am damn terrified.