Anti-government protests continued in Antananarivo on 28 January 2009. Approximately 40,000 demonstrators reportedly gathered in May 13 Plaza, the capital’s main square, to protest President Marc Ravalomanana’s alleged misuse of public funds and undemocratic policies. Anti-riot police officers were deployed to the rally as a precaution, but no violence was reported. The peaceful rally comes one day after Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina and the capital’s security forces instituted a daily 2100-0400 curfew in an effort to prevent additional violence.
Although relative calm has returned to Antananarivo after the 26 January riots, security forces have been deployed throughout the capital. Police officers reportedly shot their weapons into the air in an attempt to disperse angry protesters and looters on 27 January. The heavy police presence, however, has not deterred looters, as they continue to break into shops in the central business district. Several stores have been looted in the capital, including Jumbo Score Supermarket and shops on Hydrocarbon, Coconut Street, Chinatown and Avenue de l’Independence. Violence and looting has also been reported outside of the capital in Mahajunga — which is located in the northwestern Boeny region — and Tamatav (Toamasina), Madagascar’s primary port city. Despite the unrest, reports indicate that operations at Ivato International Airport (FMMI/TNR) are normal.
At least 35 people have been confirmed dead since the anti-government riots began on 25 January. Authorities believe that most of the dead were looters who became trapped in burning buildings when they collapsed. African Union (AU) diplomat Jean Ping has voiced the organization’s deep concern over the island’s current unrest, which he stated could risk destabilizing the country. Ping and the French government — which governed Madagascar until 1960 — have both urged the parties to engage in dialogue, but Rajoelina continues to refuse to negotiate with Ravalomanana under the current conditions.