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Number of Togolese Refugees in Benin And Ghana Rises to Over 34,000 - UN
UN News Service (New York)
May 27, 2005
he number of Togolese fleeing post-election disputes continues to rise steadily, now totalling more than 34,000, with all the new arrivals this week going to Benin, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
Between 70 and 200 refugees, mainly southern Togolese young men suspected of belonging to the opposition, crossed daily into Benin at Hilakondji, bringing the total there to 19, 272 and the total in both countries to 34,416, up from 33,385 on Tuesday. No new arrivals have been reported in Ghana this week, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
The refugees have talked about abductions and disappearances as the security forces search opposition strongholds by night, creating a climate of fear, it said.
In the camps of Come and Lokossa, sheltering 6,621 refugees between them, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has organized classes at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels for some 1,600 children, using the same textbooks they might have used in Togo.
Some of the teachers, who are also refugees, have received UNICEF training in psycho-social counselling, UNHCR said.
In Ghana, UNHCR is providing tools, cement, doors, windows and roofing materials to improve housing for refugees and their host families. Local communities have also agreed to help build houses out of mud and bamboo, it said.
Benin-Togo: Hundreds of Young Men Still Seeking Asylum
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 27, 2005
More than 700 refugees from Togo, mostly young men fearing persecution as opposition supporters, have registered with UN officials in Benin's capital in the last two days, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
"(They) are young opposition activists, or people believed to be in the opposition, who say there are still people going missing or being kidnapped at nights," UNHCR official Julie Leduc told IRIN in Cotonou.
Since the 24 April presidential election that brought Faure Gnassingbe to office, a total of 34,416 people have fled across Togo's borders to Benin and Ghana, the UNHCR said.
The exiles, along with human rights groups and diplomats, say the exodus is due to a continuing crackdown against the opposition, which has described Gnassingbe's election as a fraud. The new president stepped into the shoes of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled Togo for 38 years.
In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said at a press briefing that "the refugees cite abductions and disappearance in parts of the country which support the opposition as the reason for their flight."
"According to the refugees, security forces carry out searches at night in Lome, Aneho, Atakpame and other parts of the country where there is opposition support, creating a climate of fear," he said.
Back in Cotonou, a Togolese man, one in a long line of people waiting to register at the UNHCR office, told IRIN that it was the second time in his life he had been forced to flee persecution.
"When I was a child my parents fled with me to Benin," said Leon Kouassi, a 20-year-old secondary school student. "Today here I am again. Am I going to have to flee here in the future with my children. Will all this ever stop?"
"A manhunt is still on in Togo. In the daytime everything's quiet, but at night people go house to house to pick us up and then it's all over, no more news," said Kouassi, who is from Lome.
Opposition support is strongest among the Ewe-speaking people in the south while the Eyadema clan draws most of its support from the Kabiye ethnic group in the north.
Leduc of UNHCR Benin told IRIN that between 25 and 200 people were still coming over the border daily and that 19,272 people had so far been registered as refugees.
Of those, 1,378 people are at the Come refugee camp, which opened on 28 April and is now at saturation point. The other camp at Lokossa, which opened two days later, is already nearing its 5,500 capacity, with 5,243 refugees living there.
Benin has appealed for US $5 million dollars to help it assist the refugees, many of them living with friends and family. An African Union team in Cotonou on Friday handed the authorities US $30,000 to help.
The previous day the AU gave the same amount to Ghana on Togo's western flank. No new arrivals have been reported there and to date 15,144 Togolese refugees have been registered, who live with friends, family or under the hospitality of local communities.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]
Togo: Cracks Appear in Opposition Coalition Over Meetings with President
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 27, 2005
Cracks began to appear in Togo's opposition alliance on Friday. Four of its six member parties agreed to begin talks with newly elected President Faure Gnassingbe on the formation of a government of national unity.
But two others, including Togo's largest opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) led by the exiled Gilchrist Olympio, snubbed the encounter.
They still refuse to recognise Gnassingbe as the country's legitimate head of state because, in their view, the 24 April election had been rigged in his favour.
"We don't wish to support or confirm Faure Gnassingbe as president of Togo and so we did not participate in this morning's meeting," Jean-Pierre Fabre, the Secretary General of the UFC, told IRIN.
"There is a fundamental split within the coalition on this very subject - though for the moment we will not be leaving the coalition," he added.
The representatives of four other opposition parties that attended talks with Gnassingbe voiced their concern over the continued persecution of political opponents and demanded a solution to the crisis sparked off by the presidential election.
All six parties in the now fractured opposition alliance rallied behind UFC veteran Emmanuel Bob-Akitani in the presidential race.
But official results gave Gnassingbe a clear victory won with just over 60 percent of the vote.
Bob-Akitani, who has since been hospitalised in France after suffering a stroke, was declared runner-up with 38 percent.
The opposition cried foul as soon as the results were announced. Its supporters took to the streets in protest, only to be brutally crushed by the police and army.
The four parties that met Gnassingbe on Friday said they demanded that all their supporters detained as a result of protests surrounding the election be released.
They also demanded an immediate end to the persecution of the opposition and the restoration of a climate of security that would encourage 33,000 refugees to return from neighbouring Ghana and Benin.
Antoine Folly, Secretary General of the Union for Social Democracy (UDS-Togo), who was one of those present, said Gnassingbe listened to their proposals, but did not give an immediate response.
However, Folly said he was encouraged by the president's apparent agreement that a new prime minister be appointed who was acceptable to both the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party and the opposition.
"There will be a consensus on the name of the prime minister between the coalition and the other political representatives," Folly said. No names for the job had so far been discussed, he added.
Refugees, mostly young men, were still trickling across Togo's eastern border into Benin, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said in Geneva on Friday.
Opposition supporters told IRIN that government security forces continued to stage night time raids on the homes of actual or suspected opposition supporters.
According to the Togolese League for Human Rights, which is considered close to the opposition, hundreds of people have been arrested or have simply disappeared.
The organisation has so far compiled a list of 30 named individuals, mostly men, who have been arrested by government security forces and are being held in police stations or civilian prisons across the country.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]