Madagascar’s army gave the country’s feuding leaders 72 hours on Tuesday to resolve a political crisis that has killed about 135 people and devastated the economy, or face an intervention by the military.

At least some of the Malagasy military have mutinied in recent days, angry at a crackdown by President Marc Ravalomanana’s government on demonstrations spearheaded by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

“We promise to remain neutral. We implore all political players, civil society organisations and other parties to reunite immediately to find a solution within the next 72 hours to help the nation out of the current crisis,” General Edmond Rasolomahandry, the army’s chief of staff, told reporters.

“If no solution is found within this time, we, the armed forces, will fulfil our responsibilities in the greater interests of the nation,” he said, without elaborating.

The United Nations is guarding Rajoelina, who fears arrest, and Defence Minister Mamy Ranaivoniarivo quit on Tuesday after just a month in the job — apparently under pressure from rebel troops.

Flanked by soldiers, Ranaivoniarivo read his resignation letter to reporters at his office. Hours earlier, a colonel behind the mutiny said dissenting soldiers were in control of the building.

“Perhaps I resigned under threat. I do not like it that Malagasy people are killing each other,” Ranaivoniarivo told Reuters by telephone later, adding that resignation was “the best solution to my mind”.

His predecessor quit last month after the presidential guard shot dead 28 anti-government protesters. Analysts said the nation’s traditionally neutral army appeared to be fragmenting.



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