Opposition Leaders in Madagascar Arrested Over Living Cost Protest

Two leading members of Madagascar’s main opposition party have been apprehended on Saturday during a demonstration in the capital against rising living costs and economic meltdown.

Massive crowds chanting anti-government slogans gathered in Antananarivo in the morning, watched by a heavy military and police presence.

Police arrested Jean-Claude Rakotonirina, national coordinator of the opposition Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM) party, and Rina Randriamasinoro, its secretary general following tensions between protesters and security forces. They were later let off.

“They were arrested and placed in police custody because they made comments inciting hatred and public unrest,” Antananarivo’s Police Chief Angelo Ravelonarivo explained.

Rising inflation has hit an all time high in decades across many countries, fuelled by the war in Ukraine and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

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The protesters planned to hold the rally inside a warehouse belonging to opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana, but they arrived to find security forces blocking access to the venue.

Theafter, the protesters went on to stage a sit-in outside the building.

“The rally was authorised yesterday by the Inspector General and then this morning we discovered the police outside the gate,” said opposition lawmaker Fetra Ralambozafimbololona.

The arrests incensed the teeming crowd who vowed to not leave the area until the two men were freed.

Randriamasinoro and Rakotonirina were eventually let go in the evening, a police spokesperson said.

Their release eventually dispersed the crowd. Authorities are yet to decide whether to press charges against them.

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Protests are hardly held in the country, the opposition and the civil society have accused the government of President Andry Rajoelina of stifling dissent and rarely allowing demonstrations.

Madagascar is still smattering from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a series of weather extremities.

This year alone, more than 200 people have died from cyclones and tropical storms in the country this year. It added to the damage of a severe drought that has ravaged the island’s south leading to malnutrition and instances of famine.

With the backing of the military, Rajoelina, 48, first came to power in 2009, ousting Ravalomanana. He returned to the presidency in 2019, after beating his predecessor.

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