Togo

Togo: African Union in row over appointment of special envoy

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LOME, 6 June (IRIN) - In a rare move, the Nigerian president and head of the African Union, Olusegun Obasanjo, has publicly rebuked an AU Commission decision to appoint a special envoy to resolve an ongoing political standoff in Togo.

Speaking from the Togolese capital Lome on Friday, Obasanjo told the press that he "repudiated" a Commission statement last week appointing former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda as special AU envoy to Togo.

"This declaration does not engage any head of state and my colleagues have asked me to declare that here," said Obasanjo in Lome.

The row is the most public disagreement in the AU since it was set up in 2002, and is being described in the Nigerian press as a slight to former Malian president and current head of the AU Commission, Alpha Omar Konare.

According to Nigerian press reports, Obasanjo found out about Kaunda's appointment from the media and was angry that he had not been consulted first.

There was no comment available on the row on Monday from either Obasanjo's office or from Konare.

Obasanjo, as chairman, is head of the AU. All other sectors including the Commission - which is the main organ for the day to day running of AU affairs - are obliged to consult with the Chairman before making key decisions.

Obasanjo has played an active role in Togo since the death of its president of 38 years Gnassingbe Eyadema threw the country into political turmoil in February.

Spearheaded by the military, Eyadema's son Faure Gnassingbe, was initially installed as President but later stepped down under pressure from Obasanjo, and presidential elections were held on 24 April.

However, those elections, which validated the father-to-son transition of power, have been denounced as fatally flawed by the Togolese opposition. The European Parliament and the US also reported widespread irregularities.

The AU, the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) accepted the election result, and Obasanjo has been spearheading efforts to get the Togolese opposition to join a government of unity to defuse further conflict.

In what the Togolese government has billed as a conciliatory move, Gnassingbe has offered the post of prime minister to a representative from the six-party opposition coalition that rallied behind a single candidate in the presidential elections.

However, some members of the coalition have expressed their reluctance to work within a government they do not see as being legitimate and which they say is continuing to persecute opposition activists.

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