Ethnic violence in Madagascar

It has received no international coverage, but a BBC Monitoring translation of an April 28 report from the Madagascar Tribune indicates as explosion of ethnic violence in the African island nation over the weekend. What began as a street protest by the political opposition (called to oppose austerity measures, according to a brief item on the BBC World Service) escalated when “uncontrolled” elements started harassing the crowd, calling them “foreigners.” Ire seems to have been focused on members of “the Indo-Pakistani community” and “Merinas” (defined by BBC Monitoring as the “largest ethnic community of Malay origin”). Homes and businesses belonging to people who hail from the highlands (around Antananarivo) or “karanas” (Indo-Pakistanis) were looted. Police apparently used bullets and teargas, resulting in at least 12 casualties. The report was unclear on whether there were any deaths, but several were hospitalized. “It all reminds me of the events of 6 March 1986,” an eyewitness reached by telephone said, referring to the “anti-karana pogrom of the 1980s.”

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    Citing a report in Midi-Madagasikara, a reader writes:

    [I]f I understand correctly, the protests started with students who wanted the electric co. to restore power to the campus (scheduled for july!). Then it went onwards, with these 3 politicians pushing – two of them seem to have been held, and the other is being looked for. Seems as if things have calmed down, though 5 Merina families are returning to the highlands (yes, they’re malay of ancient origin, not recent immigrants). The scary thing the article mentions is that the “operation karana” may begin again.