Malagasy Republic faced with humanitarian catastrophe

As the Malagasy Republic takes its first steps towards a full-blown civil war, aid organisations warn of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. In a country of two presidents, armed factions have formed around the long-standing president, Didier Ratsiraka and the new president, Marc Ravalomanana.

Marc Ravalomanana claims victory in last December’s elections, which Didier Ratsiraka refused to accept. The Ravalomanana camp are based in the capital city, Antananarivo, while Ratsiraka’s forces have strongholds in the countryside around the city.

The elite Rapid Intervention Force has remained loyal to Mr. Ratsiraka throughout the stand-off, which is rapidly deteriorating into direct military action. Deprived of a port, Mr. Ravalomanana is trying to gain control of the economically important vanilla-producing area of Diego Suarez, one week after his forces were beaten back after attempting to take over the airport in Mahajanga, the second city of this large island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mozambique.

As a complete blockade is mounted around Antananarivo by forces loyal to Mr. Ratsiraka, humanitarian aid agencies warn of a humanitarian disaster in the country, especially if the fighting breaks out into full-scale civil war, which seems at present more likely than not.


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