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Toddler killed in Madagascar grenade blast

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iol pic AFR10_MADAGASCAR-ELECTION-_0124_11

REUTERS

Madagascar's newly elected President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, right, receives the key symbolising the transfer of power from outgoing president Andry Rajoelina, left, during the handover ceremony at Iavoloha Presidential Palace in the capital Antananarivo. Picture: John Friedrich Rabenandro

 

Antananarivo - A grenade explosion ripped through a Madagascar bus stop, killing a toddler and wounding 37 on Saturday just hours after the island's newly elected president took the oath.

The blast occurred some 200 hundred metres from the stadium where Hery Rajaonarimampianina was installed as the island's first post-coup elected president, a police source said.

Minister of Internal Security Arsene Rakotondrazaka initially said 33 people had been injured and a two-year-old child was killed in the blast in the capital Antananarivo.

The outgoing health minister, Olga Ramaroso, later said 38 people had been brought to hospital, including the toddler who subsequently died. The figure of 37 wounded was confirmed by a police spokesman.

After he paid a visit to the injured in an Antananarivo hospital, the president said his government would not tolerate any form of violence.

“There is rule of law, there is state authority,” and therefore “we cannot accept such violence,” the president said, vowing that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

A security source told AFP on condition of anonymity that a white man on foot tossed the grenade into a group of people outside the stadium and ran off.

The blast occurred a few hours after the inauguration ceremony that was attended by foreign dignitaries including heads of states from Namibia and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Taking the oath of office, Rajaonarimampianina had called for national unity and reached out to his political rivals to help restore stability to the Indian Ocean island.

He won last month's elections that were aimed at restoring democracy and much-needed foreign aid to the island after a 2009

coup.

The 55-year-old president called for national unity urging political opponents, who he did not mention by name, to “understand that it is not about us but about Madagascar, our collective future and our place.”

The Canadian-educated accountant is backed by the country's former strongman Andry Rajoelina who had staged the 2009 coup, toppling Marc Ravalomamana..

The man he defeated in the December 20 presidential run-off, Robinson Jean Louis, was among those present at the inauguration ceremony.

Jean Louis, the candidate backed by Ravalomanana, conceded defeat on Friday.

He told reporters that “this time, the opposition will be able to advise the state” instead of “always opposing, disrupting and marching on the streets.”

International observers gave the vote their stamp of approval.

Donor countries have lauded the democratic transition, but cautioned that normalising relations with Madagascar will depend on the formation of a new government.

Rajaonarimampianina pledged not to launch a “witch-hunt” but warned that the era of “the culture of impunity was over.”

He vowed to mercilessly fight corruption.

The World Bank's representative in Madagascar, Haleh Bridi, praised the president for a “very encouraging speech, full of hope”.

The new president has a tough task ahead of kick-starting growth after the nearly five years of political crisis saw poverty increase, leaving nine out of 10 people scraping by on less than $2 a day.

The highly aid-reliant country, whose economy is based largely on textiles and tourism, lost a third of its foreign budget support after the 2009 coup.

Despite the turmoil however, as finance minister, Rajaonarimampianina managed to successfully oversee Madagascar's public purse, maintaining a stable local currency and fuel prices, as donors and investors fled the pariah state.

The economy grew 3.1 percent in 2012, lagging well behind most fast-growing African nations.

Sapa-AFP


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