Madagascar blast mars handover

2014-01-26 13:28


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Antananarivo - A grenade explosion ripped through a Madagascar bus stop, killing a toddler and wounding 37 on Saturday just hours after the island's newly elected president took the oath.

The blast occurred about 200m from the stadium where Hery Rajaonarimampianina was installed as the island's first post-coup elected president, a police source said.

Minister of Internal Security Arsene Rakotondrazaka initially said 33 people had been injured and a two-year-old child was killed in the blast in the capital Antananarivo.

The outgoing health minister, Olga Ramaroso, later said 38 people had been brought to hospital, including the toddler who subsequently died. The figure of 37 wounded was confirmed by a police spokesperson.

After he paid a visit to the injured in an Antananarivo hospital, the president said his government would not tolerate any form of violence.

"There is rule of law, there is state authority," and therefore "we cannot accept such violence," the president said, vowing that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

A security source told AFP on condition of anonymity that a white man on foot tossed the grenade into a group of people outside the stadium and ran off.

The blast occurred a few hours after the inauguration ceremony that was attended by foreign dignitaries including heads of states from Namibia and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Taking the oath of office, Rajaonarimampianina had called for national unity and reached out to his political rivals to help restore stability to the Indian Ocean island.

He won last month's elections that were aimed at restoring democracy and much-needed foreign aid to the island after a 2009 coup.

The 55-year-old president called for national unity urging political opponents, who he did not mention by name, to "understand that it is not about us but about Madagascar, our collective future and our place."

The Canadian-educated accountant is backed by the country's former strongman Andry Rajoelina who had staged the 2009 coup, toppling Marc Ravalomamana.

The man he defeated in the 20 December presidential run-off, Robinson Jean Louis, was among those present at the inauguration ceremony.

Jean Louis, the candidate backed by Ravalomanana, conceded defeat on Friday.

He told reporters that "this time, the opposition will be able to advise the state" instead of "always opposing, disrupting and marching on the streets."

International observers gave the vote their stamp of approval.

Donor countries have lauded the democratic transition, but cautioned that normalising relations with Madagascar will depend on the formation of a new government. .

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