Togo: Unity government stalls as president rejects opposition demands

News and Press Release
Originally published
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

LOME, 8 June (IRIN) - Attempts to establish a government of unity in the wake of Togo's disputed presidential elections stalled after new President Faure Gnassingbe rejected opposition demands prior to joining.

"The president has rejected our proposals on the whole... By rejecting our proposals [the president] has refused dialogue - or at least that is the impression we [in the opposition] have at the moment," Yawovi Agboyibo, leader of the six-member coalition of opposition parties told IRIN on Wednesday.

Coalition leaders met with the president late on Monday and presented proposals for the formation of a "transitional government of unity", including a call for a rerun of the 24 April presidential poll. The opposition said the ballot was rigged.

In a statement released by the president and read out on state radio on Tuesday, Gnassingbe's spokesman said the meeting had been called to accept candidates for the post of prime minister, not to debate the structure of a new government.

"According to their conditions, the Togolese government should cancel the constitutional powers of the president of the republic and the National Assembly - The head of state has made it known that he categorically rejects this proposal," said Pascal Bodjona.

Opposition claims of electoral rigging and fraud have been echoed by the European Parliament and Canada and the United States too expressed reservations.

But the international community as a whole has recognised Gnassingbe's 60 percent victory, with AU Chairman - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo - among those to offer their congratulations.

In Togo however the results of the 24 April ballot caused widespread rioting, which was violently suppressed by government security forces.

According to Bodjona, Gnassingbe hoped to find a solution to the political deadlock by offering the opposition the post of prime minister.

"It's a sacrifice for us in our party as it was not an equal split. Really, it is not fair for our supporters," he said.

"But he has said that he wants all of Togo to work together for peace in the country.... He's putting the interest of the nation ahead of the interests of the party," Bodjona told IRIN last week.

But diplomats said that pro-government security forces were continuing to persecute opposition supporters as talks on reconciliation took place.

Since 24 April, nearly 35,000 opposition supporters have fled to neighbouring Ghana or Benin. Many of the most recent arrivals are young men who say they are fleeing nighttime house-to-house raids by government security forces and militia searching for opposition supporters.

The government denies there is "a humanitarian situation" in Togo and on Monday offered a "pardon" and to "eventually compensate" all those who have fled.

Referring to Gnassingbe's promise of a reconciliation government-to-come, the presidential statement said that "the institution promised by the head of state... will take suitable initiatives in an effort to pardon, reconcile and eventually compensate."

Richard Attipoe, a member of the central committee of the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) told IRIN recently that those who fled the country were frightened of arrest by the security forces for wrongdoings.

"Many smashed things up and burned down homes in the post election violence so they were, of course, frightened of arrest," he said.

"There are also economic reasons - going to the refugee camps is seen as a solution by many of these unemployed young men, and also a possible transition to apply to go to France, Spain or even the US," he said.

He also expressed fears of trouble making in the camps.

Ghanaian newspapers reported on Wednesday that security forces believed a cache of weapons - including AK-47s pistols and grenades - uncovered in the capital Accra last week, had been destined for Togo.


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