Marc Ravalomanana, president of Madagascar, resigned Tuesday, a day after soldiers overtook a presidential palace and the central bank in Antananarivo, Madagascar, and an opposition leader commanded the army to arrest the island country’s president.
Ravalomanana, who visited ACU’s campus twice and spoke at the May 2008 Commencement, announced he was dissolving the country’s government and handing power over to the military, which stormed the gates of the unoccupied palace Monday with several tanks and armored vehicles, according to the Associated Press.
Randy Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital city, has led weeks of protests against Ravalomanana. Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, accused Ravalomanana of corruption and running a dictatorship. Rajoelina declared himself the leader of a transitional government during the weekend and said no public elections will take place in two years, according to the AP.
According to the Times of London, the majority of the country’s army was behind opposition leader Rajoelina, but several military personnel still were supporting the president.
The president said he would not leave Madagascar, and statements from the president’s office declared the crisis a “military coup,” according to The Australian.
The opposition also took over the offices of the prime minister. More than 130 people have died in Madagascar, since Rajoelina began calling for the president to step down, according to the AP.
The European Union and African Union condemned the coup d’état. Both organizations said they would not recognize any new leader of the country imposed by force and threatened to withdraw international aid already committed to the developing nation.
Ravalomanana toured the campus in February 2005 and visited the 24 students he sent to ACU as part of the Madagascar Presidential Scholars Program, and again in May 2008 to witness the students’ graduation. Ravalomanana received an honorary doctorate of law degree from ACU and praised the more than 20 students who came to ACU as part of the scholarship program.
The students walked across the stage once more, at a second Commencement for family and friends in Madagascar in July. Dr. John Tyson, vice president for development; Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, and several other members of the ACU administration, faculty and staff also traveled to Madagascar for the special Commencement in the students’ home country.
Ravalomanana’s relationship with ACU began in 2003 when he met Tyson, while the latter was visiting Madagascar as part of a delegation from World Christian Broadcasting, a organization that beams radio programming with Christian messages into Russia, China and the Pacific Rim. Ravalomanana was impressed by Tyson’s description of the university and has said ACU was the perfect choice for the future leaders of Madagascar.
Several Malagasy students still attend ACU, and a prayer vigil for the former students, current Malagasy students and the country was scheduled for 9 p.m. in Chapel on the Hill on Tuesday evening.
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