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TOGO (West Africa)

The presidential election, scheduled for Sunday 24th April 2005, is preceded by riots, threats and killings.

Rome, 22 April 2005

erewith, I wish to bring your attention to the violent demonstrations (riots, threats, killings, etc.) that have been going on in Togo over the past days. The main reason for that is the chaotic presidential election process that was established. Despite the many appeals -from the opposition parties, Christian churches (including Catholic church), lawyers’ organization, etc.- to postpone the election, the interim president of Togo, Mr. Abass Bonfoh, announced today that the election will take place as scheduled.

Our confreres in Togo relayed recently to us at the Generalate reliable reports about the political situation in that country. In fact, for some time now clashes between the supporters of the opposition and the former government party have broken out and led to many deaths and injured people. In the last two weeks conflicts have worsened as innocent civilians -even children- were attacked, only for wearing T-shirts in orange, the color of the main opposition party. Long before the present election, some elementary schools required orange uniforms. Hence, the violence against schoolchildren is totally unjustified and condemnable.

In this setting of social and political unrest, we, the members of the General Council of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), also learned that some aggressive demonstrators have threatened to kill three of our confreres working in Lomé (the Togolese capital) due to their committed campaign for a fair and transparent election. An SSpS Sister (Missionary Servant of the Holy Spirit) faced insults from rioters who also damaged her car last Saturday in Lomé.

In the light of these reports, the General Council, while expressing his deep concern for this situation, wishes to hearten all our confreres in Togo, and invite all to support the Togolese people through our prayers for peace and justice. We appeal also to the United Nations (UN) to recognize the gravity of the political situation in Togo and take swift and effective action to help resolve this growing national crisis.

Br. Alfonso J. Berger, svd.