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Saving Togo From Bloodshed
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
Posted to the web May 17, 2005
Togo opposition must enter government of national unity
At the risk of plagiarising a political metaphor, it is worthy to recall that one of my professional prodigious colleagues the other day compared an election contest to a boxing match.
He said that when you deliver a devastating, fatal blow to knock down your opponent, you may certainly be declared the ultimate winner.
But the battle may be very far from over.
In Togo, the whirlwind tornado of volcanic post-electoral political violence which erupted in the country in protest against the declaration of results in favour of Faure Gnassingbé was a bad omen of a nation bitterly divided and against itself. Barricades were erected, lorry tyres set on fire, as opposition militants engaged security forces in ferocious street battles in opposition strongholds in Be, Kodjoviakope, Amoutieve, Baguida and Aneho, 40 kilometres from Lome.
Casualtly figures were as unreliable as they were contradictory. But opposition sources said over 100 militants were killed, and several others injured during confrontations with security forces.
Caught in cross-fire were innocent Ecowas nationals, including eight Malians who were burnt to death by opposition militants.
Without mincing words, a greater proportion of the supporters of the radical three opposition parties, the Union of Forces for Change, led by exiled leader Gilchrist Olympio, the Action Committee For Renewal of Yaovi AGBOYIBO, and the African Peoples Democratic Convention of Professor Leopold Messan Gnininvi who clamoured for political change in Togo, have not been able to reconcile themselves with the victory of Faure Gnassingbe at the recent Presidential polls.
Like a blowing windstorm, Lomé went up in thick black smoke when the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Madam Professor Kissem Tchangai Walla on the 27th of April 2005, announced provisional results which declared Faure Gnassingbe, candidate of the ruling party the overall winner with over 1,327,537 votes, about 60.22 per cent against 841,797 votes or 38.19 per cent by Emmanuel Bob Akitani, the coalition candidate.
This was without prejudice to some rejected ballot boxes in parts of Lomé, Ogou, Oti, and Wawa in the interior of Togo.
But opposition Coalition supporters cried outrage. They claimed that the vote was massively rigged in favour of Faure Gnassingbe.
It must be recalled that the Togo Opposition Coalition had flawed the elections, alleging grave irregularities in the voters' roll revision, and electoral cards distribution exercise in the run-up to the elections.
Almost every other day, the opposition coalition parties organised street protests in Lomé to call for a delay of the polls.
But this was not to be. Ecowas which played a major role to compel Faure Gnassingbe to step dawn on February 26 2005 after the Army had illegally installed him as successor to his Late Father Gnassingbe Eyadema, thought that after the clamour for a return to Constitutional legality and the holding of democratic elections within 60 days as required by the Togolese Constitution, it would be ridiculous to turn round and call for its flagrant violation by adhering to a delay of the polls.
Authorities of Ecowas Heads of state therefore supported the decision to go ahead with the elections as scheduled. As if it was designed to throw the spanners into the works, the Togolese ex-minister for Interior and Security, Akila Esso Boko held an unusual mid-night press conference on the 21st of April to call for a delay of the polls, barely 72 hours to the day of voting, and 24 hours after the Armed and Security Forces had cast their votes ahead of the polls. That was a political tinder box.
The political bombshell released by Akila Esso Boko warned that it would be politically suicidal to go ahead with the polls due to the reigning atmosphere of political violence. The call was apocalyptic when he warned that he feared that Togo would be plunged into a blood-bath if the polls were held on the 24th of APRIL 2005.
The Opposition Coalition immediately raised up red banners of war to support the ex-minister. They threatened that the Government should accept responsibility for whatever might happen if it went ahead with the polls. Government sources were stunned into incredulity. When the ex-minister for Interior was whisked away in the German Ambassador's Diplomatic Limousine. The lesson was not lost on the ruling RPT party whose Secretary-General Dama Dramani therefore situated the Source of post-electoral violence squarely on the door steps of the radical opposition parties.
"They planned the post-electoral violence in order to discredit the peaceful elections. That is why the violence erupted in the suburbs, and neighbourhoods of the Togo radical opposition," Dama DRAMANI said during a meeting with the Ecowas Fact Finding Mission.
But Yaovi Agboyibo accused the Security Forces "of the most savage form of repression by the Security Forces ever seen in Togo. They attacked opposition militants, entered the privacy of homes, and beat up innocent people," Agboyibo accused. Matters reached a collision course when Bob Akitani, the candidate of the radical opposition auto-proclaimed himself the President of the Republic of Togo, declaring himself the winner of the elections.
Mr Akitani called on the people to revolt, and invited the Armed Forces to rebellion.
That was the last straw that broke the camel's back. The Government moved quickly to establish the authority of the State, to prevent Togo from sliding into chaos, and anarchy.
To calm down flaming tempers, a joint AU and Ecowas Fact Finding mission led by the minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger, Madam Aitchatou Mindaoudou, representing the current chairman of Ecowas, Senator Lawan Guba, for the AU chairman, and Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Ecowas Executive Secretary flew into Lomé on the 30th of April 2005 on a fire fighting mission.
After meeting with all political Stake holders, including the Interim President Abass Bonfoh, and Prime Minister Koffi Sama, the delegation delivered a joint message from the current chairman of Ecowas, appealing to all Togolese to work to restore calm, and normalcy in the country.
The delegation deplored the violence that erupted in the days following the declaration of the provisional result of April 24 2005 Presidential elections.
It expressed serious concern about the attacks on foreign institutions and nationals, especially citizens of Ecowas member states and drew attention to the fact that such acts are contrary to the spirit of tolerance advocated by the Ecowas principles and could trigger reprisals against innocent Togolese in these countries.
Significantly, after the storm, Lomé, and other parts of the country have returned to calm. Or, so it seems.
The type of precarious, uneasy calm that awaits the nightmare of another thunder. Indeed, when the Togo constitutional Court pronounced the definitive results, putting the stamp of legality on the victory of 39-year old Faure Gnassingbe, opposition neighbourhoods in Lomé went dead pan like a cemetery.
Then barely 24 hours later, on Wednesday May 4, 2005, dancing supporters of the ruling RPT party exploded into an all night revelry as Justice Atsu Koffi Amegah, President of the Constitutional Court swore Faure Gnassingbe into office for the sound time this year, first illegally on Monday the 7th of February 2005, and then under constitutional legality on the 5th of May 2005. The areas of Lomé dominated by opposition supporters were somnolent and morose. Yet school children who stayed at home after the provisional results were declared on the 27th of April now went back to school.
Lomé had recaptured some form of its normalcy and commercial buoyancy.
Yet, at a great cost, Togo counted its losses. According to the UNHCR, over 20,000 Togolese are estimated to have fled into neighbouring Ghana and Benin, as those who had played leading roles during the street protests lived in fear. For example in Mango in the north alone, 15 houses of ministers of state, including Issifou Kamtchati, Minister for energy were destroyed.
In Atakpame, the vehicles of minister Ihou Agbogboli and those of his wife were vandalised.
And in Lomé, the homes of minister of Defence, General Tidjani and those of the Technical Educational minister, Edo Maurille Agbobli were destroyed, and cannibalised. Mr Richard Attipoe, ex-managing Director of the Togo Investment Bank and campaign manager for the ruling party in the maritime region, and Lomé was badly bruised, and his home subsequently vandalised in Baguida, a suburb of Lomé.
In most of these cases, the State Prosecutor of the Republic, Boubadi Bakai says the perpetrators of these acts of vandalism, and wanton killings will be pursued and brought to justice, even if it means issuing international warrant of arrest against them.
"They are not refugees, but fugitives," he said.
But the writer of the article does not believe that seeking legal reprisals against people who believed that they were carrying out legitimate means of political protests, is the sensible way out for Togo.
If this happens, people will continue to live in fear inside Togo, or will be scared of coming back home to Togo. The fact is that Togo is so badly divided and politically polarised at the moment that the country needs an emergency dosage of national reconciliation and mutual pardon in order to pacify the volatile atmosphere.
For this reason, it will be in the supreme national interest for newly elected President Faure Gnassingbe to keep his election promise in the formation of a government of national unity to bring about peace, stability, reconciliation, and security in Togo.
Already, the AU chairman and Ecowas have floated the idea of a national government in Togo. The writer believes that to make such a political power sharing formula work effectively, the five main opposition parties in Togo should negotiate the terms of such a government of national unity under the auspices of the AU, Ecowas, and the United Nations.
To make the proposal work, the main opposition parties: the CPP of Edem Kodjo, the PDR of Zarifou Ayeva, the CAR of Yawovi Agboyibo, the CDPA of Leopold Messan Gnininvi, and the UFC of Gilchrist Olympio should negotiate for legal guarantees from the AU, and Ecowas to insulate them against any arbitrary dismissals from office by elected President Faure Gnassingbe or the Togo parliament.
In the words of Nicolas Lawson, the Presidential Candidate of the PRR, the opposition parties must seek to share power by taking over some of the sovereign ministries like Defence, Interior, Information, Finance and Foreign affairs.
Mr Lawson suggests, and I agree with him, that the opposition parties must negotiate political concessions for the exclusive post of Prime Minister from Faure Gnassingbe. Of course, Faure Gnassingbe will not be naive to surrender the political powers of Head of government to an uncompromising radical who will sabotage his avowed political programmes.
Whatever the case, it may be prudent for the opposition parties, to join the government of national unity, if anything at all, to pre-empt the ruling RPT party from confiscating, and monopolising the apparatus of state for the next five years.
Apart from serving to appease bleeding hearts, the new government should have specific national objectives. For example, as pointed out by Harry Olympio, the Presidential Candidate of the RSDD party, the envisaged Government of National Unity must have the fundamental objective of bringing about real national reconciliation in Togo.
Secondly, it must also proceed to revise the Togo Constitution so that all grey areas that militate against the fundamental human rights of all Togolese must be expunged.
Thirdly, such a government must clean up the controversial electoral code of Togo with a fine tooth-comb in order to remove vexatious and discriminatory provisions which prohibit the promotion of freedom and justice in the electoral process.
Having gone through the process of apprenticeship, the opposition parties will be able to acquire the complex art of governance, and develop skills needed for the management of national affairs.
What a beautiful sight it would be for Togolese of all political tendencies, and persuasions to see their leaders participate in ministerial conferences, and Cabinet meetings holding hands together in a chain of healthy union and Constructive debate.
In this way, the solid foundation will have been laid for future free, fair transparent, democratic elections, starting from the local level, to the parliamentary, and then finally to the decisive, and critical Presidential elections.
For the beleaguered, embattled Togolese, this can be the only compromise solution out of the current political imbroglio in Togo.
For, the choice for peace is far more attractive than the fruitless resort to the arms struggle for which the radical opposition may not have the most "radicalised means" to prosecute at the moment.
Afalo Shooting Incident
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
Posted to the web May 17, 2005
Parliament calls on Defence and Interior ministries for action
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Ketu North, Mr. Albert Zigah, has called on the government to take immediate action on a shooting incident at Aflao by Togolese security personnel, which injured three people at the Ghana border.
The member said the Ghana government should take up the matter with the Togolese authorities, in terms of ensuring that everything was done to save the lives of the victims or for any compensation, which ought to be paid.
The member made the statement on the floor of the House to draw attention to the incident and to help expedite action to save the lives of the Ghanaians involved.
He noted that it was amazing and most unfair for the military of a sister country, Togo, to behave in such a manner, creating tension along the borderline Mr. Zigah stated that the Togo security forces had actually failed to behave according to the Military code of conduct and ethics.
This is to say, no matter the degree of misunderstanding after their Presidential election, they had no authority to fire gunshots into our dear motherland Ghana, resulting in the aforesaid injuries.
He explained that on April 26, this year, at about 3 p.m., a section of the Togo military, intentionally fired bullets into a group of people at their place of residence within the borders of Ghana at Beat-3 Aflao. The military again fired teargas into the crowd where the incident occurred.
These irresponsible actions of the military had two young girls and a young man, namely Linda Donu, l0 years, Mabel Ahedor 13 years and King Kosmos 28 years, all citizens of Ghana, severely wounded by bullets and had to be rushed to the Aflao District Hospital.
Linda, Mabel and Kosmos have six, three and one bullets respectively embedded in their bodies.
He reiterated that the victims are in extreme pain as a result of the pellets which are still in their bodies.
He mentioned that as a result of the post-election violence, there are a lot of refugees coming to Aflao, bringing about an increase in food prices, especially maize, one American tin or "Olonka" which is now selling at ¢13,000.00 instead of ¢10,000.00. Accommodation facilities have also become a major problem for the Ketu District Assembly.
He therefore called on the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations to come to the aid of the Ketu District Assembly.
He was grateful to the Deputy Minister for the Interior, Hon. Nkrabea Effah-Dartey and the Deputy Volta Regional Minister, for their timely visit to the area, especially to the victims at the hospital and wished that the government of Ghana, together with that of Togo, put measures in place to avoid this unfortunate situation occurring in the future.
The Deputy Minority leader, Mr. Doe Adjaho, said copies of the statement should be sent to the ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs for action, so that measures could be put in place to check future occurrences.
The Majority leader, Mr. Felix Owusu Adjapong said it was most unfortunate for these innocent victims to suffer.
He cautioned Ghanaians working at the borders to be extra careful while going about their daily activities.
Nearly 31,000 Togolese Refugees Now in Ghana And Benin, UN Says
UN News Service (New York)
Posted to the web May 17, 2005
With the outflow of Togolese fleeing disputes over presidential elections slowing significantly, the United Nations refugee and food distribution agencies are making sure that host families in neighbouring Benin and Ghana can bear the burden of the nearly 31,000 refugees they have taken in.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that new daily arrivals in Benin now numbered 110 to 136, bringing its total to 16,158, while no new refugees had arrived in Ghana, where there already were 14,727 Togolese.
In the run-up to the 28 April elections in Togo, UN experts expressed concern about violent clashes between the parties, reports of restrictions on independent media and numerous allegations of irregularities in organizing the elections. The election itself was peaceful, but sporadic clashes broke out afterwards.
In conjunction with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Catholic Relief Services, UNHCR said it was boosting water distribution and sanitation services, including building new family and public latrines, in urban areas of Ghana where there was a high concentration of refugees.
It would extend this assistance to the rural South Volta region, it said.
A joint assessment mission visited refugee hosting areas over the weekend to find out how best to assist local clinics and hospitals facing overcrowding, UNHCR said.