October 18, 2014 / 4:18 PM / in 6 years

Madagascar police disperse pro-Ravalomanana rally with teargas

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar police on Saturday fired teargas at supporters of ex-president Marc Ravalomanana, who was placed under house arrest this week after returning to the Indian Ocean island for the first time since he was deposed in a 2009 coup.

Authorities banned the planned rally but about 300 Ravalomanana supporters ignored the decree and clashed with the police in the capital Antananarivo where the former leader was arrested on Monday after arriving from exile in South Africa.

It was not clear if anyone was injured during the clashes.

“This demonstration was not authorised, neither by the mayor nor by the prefecture,” said Colonel Florens Rakotomahanina, Commander of the Antananarivo District Police.

“We will proceed with arrests, even if the demonstrations are led by parliamentarians.”

Ravalomanana, who is called “Dada” by his supporters, tried returning to Madagascar several times since 2009 but was prevented by the authorities who feared his homecoming would destabilise the island which has a long history of coups.

“We are here to demand the release of our Dada,” said Nivo Rakotomalala, a pro-Ravalomanana supporter at the rally.

Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, on Friday said the people would “rise up” to free her husband.

“The imprisonment of my husband is undignified, unjust and illegal,” she told a local radio station on Friday.

“We will not be quiet until Dada is liberated.”

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who took office in January after a peaceful election last December, said Ravalomanana was detained “for his own safety”. Security in Antanarivo had been beefed up throughout the week.

Hours before masked men swooped on his home in the capital on Monday, Ravalomanana said: “I’m not coming to bring trouble but to bring peace and work for Madagascar’s development.”

Madagascar is recovering from a crisis triggered by the 2009 coup, in which Andry Rajoelina overthrew Ravalomanana with the help of the army and proclaimed himself president.

The overthrow prompted donors to withhold aid and investors to flee, causing a contraction in the economy which had been attracting mining companies and other businesses.

The World Bank and other donors restarted aid programmes after the peaceful election last year which President Rajaonarimampianina won with the backing of Rajoelina.

Rajoelina previously warned Ravalomanana that he would be held to account for crimes allegedly committed during his final weeks in power.

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