Authorities in Madagascar promised on Thursday to continue talking to army reservists, who staged a demonstration this week to demand better compensation for their support of President Marc Ravalomanana during the 2002 political crisis.
According to presidential spokesman Raymond Ramandimbilahatra, about 600 reservists marched through the capital, Antananarivo, on Wednesday, calling for an increase in the existing reward package offered by the government for their support during the six-month crisis.
Last month Ravalomanana offered the reservists US $175, but the protestors are asking for up to US $2,000 to cover their expenses, including a risk premium, family and rent allowances.
"The government is prepared to continue the dialogue with the reservists. The ministry of defence has assured them that their demands will be taken into consideration, as long as they continue to express themselves in a peaceful manner," Ramandimbilahatra told IRIN.
While the government "appreciated the outstanding support" it received during the political troubles, it had to consider the limited government resources. "Our appeal is that the requests be reasonable - after all, we are now all working to rebuild the country. In the long term everyone will benefit." He added that the reservists did not pose any threat to the current political stability.
About 2,600 former members of the army and police were called on to support Ravalomanana during the tussle for control of the Indian Ocean island, sparked by disputed elections held in December 2001.
"These reservists proved to be very crucial in Ravalomanana's campaign to take control of the country. They risked their lives and the government should reward them adequately," said civil rights activist, Madeleine Ramaholimihaso.
"It is too soon to tell if their discontent will be expressed in a more violent way, but it is important for the government to address some of their concerns," she said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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