Leo, kuna habari kuwa huko Madadgascar aliyekuwa meya wa mji mkuu wa taifa hilo, Antananarivo, amepindua serikali na kuwa rais! Heh!
By JEROME DELAY
Associated Press Writer
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) -- The mayor of Madagascar's capital said he was in charge of the country Saturday after a week of violent protests that left 43 dead but there were no indications that his claims of taking over the government were true.
There was no immediate comment from President Marc Ravalomanana, but a government news conference was expected later in the day.
Mayor Andry Rajoelina, who has grown increasingly critical of Ravalomanana and has called for him to stand down, addressed a crowd of about 4,500 people in the capital's main square.
"Until the establishment of a transitional government, it is me who gives the command," he said. "I send a call to the forces of law and order that it is me who gives the command."
Rajoelina has made similar claims in the last week, saying he is ready to take over an interim government. But the constitution requires a president be at least 40, and Rajoelina is 34.
The rally ended peacefully after some protesters threw stones at police in the morning. Police withdrew from the area and protesters set up a barricade of barrels and trash cans around the square.
Unrest began Monday when protesters set the government broadcasting complex ablaze, along with an oil depot, shopping mall and a private TV station linked to Ravalomanana.
The protests were sparked by the government's decision that day to close a radio station owned by Rajoelina. He accuses Ravalomanana's government of misspending funds and threatening democracy.
By Friday, the violence had subsided but a tense atmosphere remained on the streets of the capital.
Ravalomanana had said the government would crack down on those inciting violence, but later toned down his stance.
On Thursday, he made a conciliatory gesture and promised to put the mayor's radio station back on the air.
Western and African leaders have pressed the two men to resolve their differences.
Madagascar, off Africa's southeast coast, is known for its rare wildlife and eco-tourism -- but also for its history of political unrest and infighting. It is also one of Africa's poorest nations with more than half the population living on less than $1 per day.
Ravalomanana clashed with former President Didier Ratsiraka when both claimed the presidency after a disputed December 2001 election. After low-level fighting split the country between two governments, two capitals and two presidents, Ratsiraka fled to France in June 2002.
Ravalomanana won re-election in 2006, though two opposition candidates tried to challenge the validity of the vote.