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09ANTANANARIVO152 2009-03-04 10:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Antananarivo
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P 041017Z MAR 09
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L ANTANANARIVO 000152 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2019

Classified By: A/RSO Timothy Feeney for reasons 1.4 d and e

1. (C/NF) Summary: President Ravalomanana's recent push to
outfit his security forces with non-lethal weapons may run
the risk of alienating the population's perception that the
security forces remain neutral between the President and
Andry "TGV" Rajoelina's opposition movement. End Summary.

2. (C/NF) Recognizing that his security forces lacked proper
riot control gear, the President has embarked on a buying
spree of riot control gear from suppliers in China, using
South Africa as a transit point. On at least two separate
occasions, confirmed by RSO airport police contacts, the
President has utilized his company's privately owned
aircraft, a ATR 42-320 registration #5R-MJT and
affectionately named TIKO Air, to fly to South Africa to
pickup much needed riot control gear (shields, body armor,
tear gas, rubber bullets, and uniforms) for his security
forces. Bypassing the cumbersome customs bureaucracy, the
aircraft arrives at Ivato International's military section
where it is unloaded and hauled off by military trucks for
their immediate deployment to the security forces making up
the EMMO-Nat (Etat-Major Mixte Operationnel au Niveau
National) units. Comment: EMMO-Nat forces are made up of
Malagasy military elements, Gendarmerie, and National Police
operating under a mixed command and used as a quick reaction
force. End Comment.

3. (C/NF) Feeling the need to get a return on his investment,
the deployment of this gear has resulted in the President
pressuring EMMO-Nat commanders, who are usually hesitant to
initiate confrontation, to directly confront opposition
protesters and disperse any large gatherings with tear gas
and stun grenades. On February 27th, security forces made a
half hearted effort to disperse opposition protesters at
Antananarivo's main sports stadium but quickly retreated to a
nearby police station as protesters began pelting security
forces with stones. Malagasy media outlets have widely
reported on the arrival of this new equipment and the
equipment's point of origin with rumors swirling that
offensive weapons have been added to the shipments. Not
wanting to be complicit in supplying offensive weapons and
accused of being indirectly responsible for the killing of
civilians, the Chinese Embassy issued a press release denying
the delivery of arms and ammunition but surprisingly
admitting to the delivery of helmets, shields, uniforms, and
body armor.

4. (C/NF) Civilian deaths and injuries by the security forces
are quickly bringing the public's attention to their role in
the political deadlock. During the February 27th
confrontation, security forces used stun grenades in an
attempt to intimidate and disperse the crowd. After the
opposition rally was over, 75-100 concerned citizens gathered
outside the Gendarmerie National Headquarters (located 2
kilometers from the rally) with an unexploded grenade,
protesting its use and asking why security forces used the
grenade on the population. The group of citizens recognized
that the grenade was not a lethal explosive grenade, but
still believed the stun grenades use against the population
was unacceptable. On February 28th, a rally in Fianarantsoa
resulted in the death of a guard not participating in the
opposition demonstration after a stray bullet killed him.
Again the local population blamed the security forces for the
death after they deployed tear gas and fired warning shots
into the air. Finally on March 2nd, a confrontation between
university students and security forces resulted in the death
of one person. Reports indicate security forces arrived on
scene and attempted to clear a blockade on the road resulting
in an immediate clash with the students. Without delay
security forces deployed tear gas and warning shots resulting
in one person suffering a fatal head shot and two others
wounded. Witnesses state the security forces fired into the
crowd while the government claims the individual was hit by a
stray round that was originally fired into the sky. The
Malagasy Red Cross confirmed the one death but later
retracted the confirmation. Contacts at Antananarivo's main
hospital confirmed receiving two individuals with gunshot

5. (C/NF) Comment: The arrival of the riot gear was a much
needed addition to the inventory of non-lethal weapons for
the security forces. However, the security forces have not
received proper training on the use of this equipment for its
intended purpose. It is doubtful the security forces properly
understand how to effectively use rubber bullets in a crowd
control situation. Ill trained units would no doubt continue
to fire their weapons towards the upper body portion of
crowds increasing the risk of head shots with lethal
consequences. Additionally, even with the best intentions of
keeping the rubber bullets low to the ground, the risk of
security forces firing their weapons on full automatic and
causing the weapon's barrel to naturally climb up with the
resulting rounds traveling towards the upper body of crowds
is a real concern. Additionally, the deployment of stun
grenades into dense crowds can cause burns and the quality of
Chinese produced grenades is suspect at best. Finally, riot
control forces have shown a habit of letting crowds
immediately proceed up to their riot line with no sense of
urgency to maintain a large 'no mans land' between security
forces and protesters. This action makes it impossible for
the riot control units to deploy tear gas to disperse a large
crowd and reduce the risk of injuries against their own

6. (C/NF) Comment continued: If the current trend continues
with protesters or bystanders being killed or seriously
injured by the use of this new equipment, the population's
perception that the security forces are playing referee and
only maintaining law and order in this political stand off
will be tested along with the population's general respect
for the military and police. Additionally, public opinion
will shift against the President adding new life to TGV's
movement with the possibility of the opposition viewing the
security forces as legitimate targets, firmly under the
command of the President. Finally, the manner in which the
President continues to mix his own business assets with state
resources through the use of his TIKO plane to deliver
equipment for the security forces only reinforces TGV's
argument that the President truly considers himself CEO of