Madagascar’s president on Thursday appealed to the splintering security forces “to fulfil their responsibilities” in a power struggle with the opposition that has killed 135 people on the Indian Ocean island.
U.N.-brokered talks aimed at solving the crisis and which had been due to take place were postponed and the United States encouraged its diplomats and citizens in the country to leave.
The unrest on the world’s fourth largest island has left it unclear who is controlling the government and security forces.
On Wednesday, the leader of a widening mutiny within the army appointed himself chief of staff, ousting Madagascar’s top general who had given the political rivals 72 hours — until Friday — to find a solution or face army intervention.
In a statement on national radio, President Marc Ravalomanana, who has appeared recently to be losing control of the traditionally neutral armed forces, called for calm.
“Our priority is to restore law and order. I appeal to the security forces to fulfil their responsibilities and protect the people and to do it with dignity,” he said.
Shops along the capital Antananarivo’s May 13 Plaza — the epicentre of popular revolts since Madagascar won independence from France in 1960 — stayed shut as nervous residents awaited developments. Usually traffic-choked streets were quiet.
Mediators had hoped to bring Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina together on Thursday for face-to-face talks to end the chaos that is crippling a $390 million-a-year tourism industry and spooking foreign investors.