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Protest over New Dictator in Togo

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About the Protests in Lome, Togo

A two-day work stoppage called by Togo's opposition in protest at what they call a military coup has had a mixed response.

Some businesses and markets were shut in the morning but began opening later.

Togo MapPublic rallies have been banned and a two-month period of national mourning declared for President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died on Saturday.

His son Faure Gnassingbe was installed as president on Monday after the constitution was hastily amended.

The BBC's Ebow Godwin says Lome is a divided city with the stay away observered more widely in the south of the capital than the north.

Many public sector employees went to work as normal.

In the northern sector, where people who mainly support the ruling party reside, life is getting back to normal with some children even attending school.

The West African grouping, Ecowas, will meet in emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Togo.

Its chairman, Mamadou Tandja, told the BBC that the events in Togo had brought "shame to Africa".

Lome, Togo

The two protest days - under the slogan "Togo, dead country" were called by the head of the Action Committee for Renewal, Yawovi Agboyibo.

He said he expected support for the protest despite the ban on rallies.

Police in Lome broke up a demonstration as Mr Faure was being sworn in on Monday.

An Ecowas fact-finding delegation led by its executive secretary, Mohamed Ibn Chambas held a meeting with the new president on Monday morning, before his inauguration.

MPs passed a constitutional amendment the day after Gnassingbe Eyadema's death which allowed his son to serve out his father's term as president - until June 2008.

Mr Faure had already been installed as president by the military.

The African Union (AU) has threatened to impose sanctions on Togo, describing the succession as a military coup.

The AU has said the absence of a democratic transition in Togo is a threat to peace and most Western diplomats in Lome boycotted the inauguration on Monday.

Eyadema, Africa's longest-serving ruler, died at the age of 69 while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad - reportedly from a heart attack.

After seizing power 38 years ago, he dissolved all political parties and governed unchallenged for more than two decades.

He legalised political parties in 1991, as a result of popular pressure, and won three elections.

But accusations of political repression and electoral fraud continued.

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

About Gnassingbe Eyadema

Gnassingbe EyademaGnassingbe Eyadema was born at Pya in the semi-arid north of Togo, on December 26 1935, the son of poor peasant parents of the Kabye tribe, one of the largest of the country's 37. He was given the Christian name Etienne, only changing it to Eyadema, meaning "courage" in the local dialect, when he began his ascent to power.

He received only the most rudimentary education but developed into a strong and energetic youth, excelling in physical sports, particularly a local form of wrestling. The French garrison in Dahomey (now Benin) was recruiting strong young men; Eyadema and a group of friends made their way across the nearby border to volunteer.

His physical prowess and enthusiasm as a French soldier in combat earned him promotion and instilled in him a loyalty to France. He was based back in Dahomey when Togo, a former UN Trust Territory, was granted full independence in 1960. Sylvanus Olympio, scion of one of the best-known families of the southern Ewe people favoured by the colonial power for their aptitude, became the first president.

Honourably discharged after his service with the French, Eyadema returned to Togo, hoping to join his own country's army. Olympio was suspicious of any military ambitions and flatly refused Eyadema's request to sponsor a training course in France. Arrogantly sidelining the poor people of the north, Olympio had also made the mistake of making it clear he wished to distance the new country from its colonial past, which led many West African observers to believe that Paris had a hand in his assassination.

Eyadema boasted to friends that he was the man who fired the shots which killed Olympio in the early hours of January 13 1963. He later denied any complicity and threatened journalists who reported it. But he became an influential military figure under the new president, Nicolas Grunitzky, helping to form Togo's army and rapidly becoming a colonel and chief-of-staff.

Grunitzky's regime was soon facing a severe political and economic crisis. Eyadema, with seeming reluctance, agreed to "help the people with their desire for true democracy", and seized power in January 1967.

His early public speeches and the day-to-day administration of the country's affairs were all dictated by Jaques Foccart, de Gaulle's Machiavellian adviser on African affairs. French "advisers" ran the government departments and created a Togo that was, according to critics, a "reborn French colony in all but name". Eyadema was left unhindered to do what he did best – increase the armed forces and police loyal to him and eliminate any opposition. Political opponents were exiled or "disappeared". A former vice-president and a popular army colonel died in mysterious circumstances.

When international demands forced many African states to observe democratic standards and dictators began to fall, Eyadema called a presidential election in 1998. Many died as he attempted to rig the poll, and when the voting began to go against him he put an abrupt end to the process "in the interests of national security". Amnesty International reported a persistent pattern of killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests.

Jacques Chirac visited Togo in 1999, criticising Amnesty's report as "manipulation" but quietly urging Eyadema towards democracy – under threat of a withdrawal of French aid money. Eyadema duly announced that he would "sacrifice himself once more" by seeking re-election in new elections in 2003. He won this poll, having banned his main opponent, Gilchrist Olympio, son of the man he had murdered in his first quest for power.

He had suffered from a heart condition for several years and reportedly died from a heart attack on February 5 as he was about to board an aircraft for treatment in Paris. Under Togo's constitution, power should have passed to the speaker of the national assembly, but the country's constitution was altered overnight to allow the dictator's son, Faure, to be named as his successor.

Gnassingbe Eyadema is survived by three wives and an estimated 12 children.

Gnassingbe Eyadema was born at Pya in the semi-arid north of Togo, on December 26 1935, the son of poor peasant parents of the Kabye tribe, one of the largest of the country's 37. He was given the Christian name Etienne, only changing it to Eyadema, meaning "courage" in the local dialect, when he began his ascent to power.

He received only the most rudimentary education but developed into a strong and energetic youth, excelling in physical sports, particularly a local form of wrestling. The French garrison in Dahomey (now Benin) was recruiting strong young men; Eyadema and a group of friends made their way across the nearby border to volunteer.

His physical prowess and enthusiasm as a French soldier in combat earned him promotion and instilled in him a loyalty to France. He was based back in Dahomey when Togo, a former UN Trust Territory, was granted full independence in 1960. Sylvanus Olympio, scion of one of the best-known families of the southern Ewe people favoured by the colonial power for their aptitude, became the first president.

Honourably discharged after his service with the French, Eyadema returned to Togo, hoping to join his own country's army. Olympio was suspicious of any military ambitions and flatly refused Eyadema's request to sponsor a training course in France. Arrogantly sidelining the poor people of the north, Olympio had also made the mistake of making it clear he wished to distance the new country from its colonial past, which led many West African observers to believe that Paris had a hand in his assassination.

Eyadema boasted to friends that he was the man who fired the shots which killed Olympio in the early hours of January 13 1963. He later denied any complicity and threatened journalists who reported it. But he became an influential military figure under the new president, Nicolas Grunitzky, helping to form Togo's army and rapidly becoming a colonel and chief-of-staff.

Protest over New Dictator in Togo (AP/Schalk van Zuydam)

Anti government protesters brandish rocks which they declare they will throw at troops that are firing tear gas and stun grenades in the streets of Lome, Togo, on Saturday, February 12, 2005.

Security forces Saturday used tear gas and batons to scatter hundreds of Togolese demonstrators opposed to the military's appointment of their late dictator's son as his successor.

Grunitzky's regime was soon facing a severe political and economic crisis. Eyadema, with seeming reluctance, agreed to "help the people with their desire for true democracy", and seized power in January 1967.

His early public speeches and the day-to-day administration of the country's affairs were all dictated by Jaques Foccart, de Gaulle's Machiavellian adviser on African affairs. French "advisers" ran the government departments and created a Togo that was, according to critics, a "reborn French colony in all but name". Eyadema was left unhindered to do what he did best – increase the armed forces and police loyal to him and eliminate any opposition. Political opponents were exiled or "disappeared". A former vice-president and a popular army colonel died in mysterious circumstances.

When international demands forced many African states to observe democratic standards and dictators began to fall, Eyadema called a presidential election in 1998. Many died as he attempted to rig the poll, and when the voting began to go against him he put an abrupt end to the process "in the interests of national security". Amnesty International reported a persistent pattern of killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests.

Jacques Chirac visited Togo in 1999, criticising Amnesty's report as "manipulation" but quietly urging Eyadema towards democracy – under threat of a withdrawal of French aid money. Eyadema duly announced that he would "sacrifice himself once more" by seeking re-election in new elections in 2003. He won this poll, having banned his main opponent, Gilchrist Olympio, son of the man he had murdered in his first quest for power.

He had suffered from a heart condition for several years and reportedly died from a heart attack on February 5 as he was about to board an aircraft for treatment in Paris. Under Togo's constitution, power should have passed to the speaker of the national assembly, but the country's constitution was altered overnight to allow the dictator's son, Faure, to be named as his successor.

Gnassingbe Eyadema is survived by three wives and an estimated 12 children.

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

About Togo

Population : 5 million (UN, 2004)
Capital : Lome
Area : 56,785 sq km (21,925 sq miles)
Languages : French (official), local languages
Religions : Indigenous beliefs, Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy : 48 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)
Currency : 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
Exports : Cocoa, phosphates, coffee, cotton
GNI per capita : US $310 (World Bank, 2003)
Internet domain : .tg

Lome, Togo

Togo, a narrow strip of land on Africa's west coast, has for years been the target of criticism over its human rights record and political governance.

Togo formed part of the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped abroad by European slavers during the 17th century. In 1884 it became the German protectorate of Togoland.

It was seized by Britain and France at the start of World War I, divided and administered under League of Nations mandates.

The British-ruled western part was later incorporated into what is now Ghana.

France granted independence in 1960 and Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was assassinated in a military coup three years later. Head of the armed forces Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a 1967 coup and dissolved all political parties.

Although political parties were legalised in 1991 and a democratic constitution was adopted in 1992, the leadership was accused of suppressing opposition and of cheating in elections.

A joint UN-Organisation of African Unity panel, set up to investigate Amnesty International allegations that several hundred people were killed after controversial elections in 1998, concluded in 2001 that there had been systematic violations of human rights.

Gnassingbe Eyadema died in early 2005 after 38 years in power. The military's installation of his son as president provoked widespread condemnation, with regional leaders threatening to impose sanctions.

The affair was at odds with the commitments to democracy made by Togo in 2004 with a view to normalising ties with the EU, which cut off aid in 1993 over the country's human rights record.

Togo's only significant television station is the government-owned Television Togolaise, the only daily is the government-owned Togo-Presse and some of the country's private radio stations are government-owned or associated with the ruling party, Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT).

Although the constitution provides for freedom of the press, the government does not follow this practice. A number of private weeklies are published, but journalists are subject to harassment and legal action.

However, under an amendment to the 2002 media law, press offences cannot be punished by imprisonment.

Private radio and television stations generally reinforce government policies and offer little independent or local coverage.

Radio France Internationale broadcasts on FM in Lome and Kara.

Source: www.bbc.co.uk


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