Madagascar said Thursday it had foiled an attempt to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina and arrested six people, two of whom were French nationals.
“Several foreign and Madagascar nationals were arrested on Tuesday, July 20, as part of an investigation into an attack on state security,” prosecutor Berthine Razafiarivony said in a statement.
Public Security Minister Fanomezantsoa Rodellys Randrianarison said six arrests had been made, comprising “a foreigner, two dual nationals and three Madagascans.”
They swooped to make simultaneous arrests in different locations and seized money and weapons, he said.
Two French men are among those who were arrested on Tuesday, diplomatic sources told AFP. Their wives are also in custody.
Named in Madagascar state media, they were both identified as retired military police officers.
The other individual is a French-Madagascan dual national who was an advisor to Rajoelina until 2011 and also a former French gendarme.
He won the last vote in December 2018, beating his main rival and predecessor Ravalomanana in an election beset by allegations of fraud.
Stretching across 587,000 square kilometres (nearly 227,000 square miles), Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, bigger than Spain or Thailand in size.
The announcement of the assassination plot comes after several months of turbulence and threats to journalists reporting on the country’s coronavirus pandemic and a burgeoning famine in the south of the country.
In April, nine TV and radio programmes were blocked on the grounds that they were “liable to disturb public order and security and harm national unity.”
“The situation should not be exploited to harm democracy in Madagascar,” he told AFP.
Rajoelina made his mark in events management and media before bursting on to the political scene in 2007.
After becoming the city’s mayor, he used his own Viva broadcasting channel to help generate a national following, putting himself forward as the leading opponent to Ravalomanana.
Under international pressure, Rajoelina did not contest the 2013 election and instead backed his victorious former finance minister, Hery Rajaonarimampianina.
Madagascar is heavily dependent on foreign aid, and nine out of 10 people live on less than $2 a day.