A protester in Madagascar was killed when police put down a demonstration against recurring electricity cuts in the eastern city of Toamasina, the victim’s family and police said on Monday.
The death, which happened on 3 January, was the second arising from protests in the port city of Toamasina over repeated power blackouts, after an aggressive police response to a violent demonstration on 23 December left one person dead.
According to family members of the man killed on Saturday, his death was caused by a beating from special police forces deployed to contain the display of anger.
Madagascar police confirmed that a protester who had been arrested died in hospital, but denied any beating had occurred.
“It was the shoving that took place as he was getting into the [police] car that was fatal,” said general Njato Andrianjanaka, adding that at the time of his arrest the deceased was in “an advanced state of intoxication” – a claim the victim’s family contests.
The unrest began after the latest in what has become a regular series of blackouts in Madagascar, where power supplies remain insufficient with only 15% of the island electrified.
The rolling cuts have become even more frequent since President Hery Rajaonarimampianina came to power a year ago.
According to Andrianjanaka the violence on Saturday started when residents he described as “furious” about a new outage “wanted to take [their anger] out on repair technicians who had come to inspect the damage”.
After the technicians fled, he said, locals burnt car tires to set a utility pole on fire – leading to the intervention of police and the arrests of three protesters, including the deceased.
Power cuts on the island are most frequently the result of the national water and electricity company Jirama paying suppliers of oil to the nation’s power plants late.
Jirama remains dependent on fossil fuels for electricity generation, despite Madagascar having the means of adopting hydroelectric technologies.
Energy Minister Richard Fihenena was fired two months ago for his inability to solve the problem of power cuts, and his replacement has still not been named.