ANTANANARIVO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - At least two people died on Monday when tens of thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Madagascar’s capital, burning the state-owned TV and radio station.
A security source told Reuters that a policeman and a 14-year-old child had been killed on the massive Indian Ocean island during the demonstration calling for President Marc Ravalomanana’s government to resign.
“We know of two deaths,” the source said.
A local journalist, Fano Rakopondrazaka, said 11 people had died in a stampede during the chaos.
“I saw 11 dead men. They were looters crushed in a stampede,” he told Reuters from the scene.
That could not be independently confirmed.
The protests came on the first day of strikes called by the opposition.
They are angry at a government decision to shut down a private television station owned by the capital’s maverick 34-year-old mayor and opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina.
Authorities shut the station last December after it broadcast remarks by the exiled former President, Didier Ratsiraka. The government deemed the remarks likely to incite civil disorder.
The government has accused Rajoelina of stirring up a revolt and called for calm and order across the capital Antananarivo.
“All this is the response of a population facing economic difficulties and an absence of democracy,” one demonstrator told Reuters, as black flames billowed out of a supermarket behind him.
Witnesses told Reuters that angry youths looted shops and burnt buildings belonging to the local radio and national television stations.
Elsewhere in the capital, a mob ransacked the house of one senator closely allied to Ravalomanana.
Relations have deteriorated rapidly between the government and opposition in recent weeks.
The authorities accuse the mayor of running the capital poorly, while the mayor alleges he is being deliberately obstructed from fulfilling his mandate.
Jean Eric Rakotoarisoa, a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Antananarivo told Reuters that the riots were the beginning of a political crisis in Madagascar.
“The closure of Viva TV was the final straw. Beyond that there is a deep crisis within Malgache society, created by growing hardships and a diminishing purchasing power,” he added.
Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, has a population of 19 million and a long history of political instability.
Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Wangui Kanina and Jon Boyle