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To: "SVD webmaster SVD" <webmaster@svdcuria.org>
Date: 31 May 2005, 03:45:10 PM - 01 Jun 2005, 01:29:03 AM
Subject: news - infos

Les enfants, premières victimes de l'exode post-électoral

(IRIN, Aneho, Togo, 31 mai 2005)

bandonné par ses parents qui ont fuit par crainte de représailles suite à l'annonce des résultats controversés des élections présidentielles, Alex, 14 ans, se rend chaque matin à la plage pour ramasser les gravillons qu'il revendra aux professionnels du bâtiment pour assurer sa subsistance.

«Mes parents ont pris part aux marches de protestation qui ont suivi les élections, puis, poussés par la peur ils ont fuit», explique l'adolescent.

Comme des milliers d'autres militants de l'opposition, les parents d'Alex sont descendus dans les rues pour exprimer leur indignation suite au scrutin du 24 avril qui a confirmé la transition du père au fils Eyadema.

Fils de Gnassingbe Eyadema qui présida aux destinées du Togo pendant 38 ans jusqu'à son décès en février dernier, Faure Gnassingbe a été déclaré vainqueur d'une élection qui, selon l'opposition, a été entachée de fraudes massives.

Les marches de protestation ont été brutalement réprimées par les forces de sécurité dans les jours qui ont suivi l'annonce des résultats du scrutin. Et, selon les habitants d'Aneho et de Lomé, la capitale togolaise, la répression des opposants se poursuit en cachette le soir.

Comme tant d'autres togolais, les parents d'Alex ont parcouru les 5 kilomètres qui séparent la ville orientale d'Aneho de la frontière béninoise d'Hilacondji. Dans leur fuite, ils ont emmené son jeune frère de 12 ans, mais Alex a choisi de rester et de terminer sa scolarité.

«Je vis avec mon oncle», a-t-il confié à IRIN sur la plage. «Mais puisqu'il est sans emploi, je viens régulièrement ici ramasser des gravillons que je vends pour me nourrir».

Alex est un nom d'emprunt; comme tant d'autres habitants craintifs d'Aneho, il hésite a révéler sa vraie identité.

Chaque jour, il se rend à la plage vers 6 heures du matin pour ramasser des gravillons. Après quatre heures de temps passées à recueillir dans son tamis les galets charriés par les écumes des vagues, Alex revend sa cargaison de gravillons aux entrepreneurs en bâtiment locaux pour 1 500 francs CFA (3 US$).

«C'est éprouvant», lance Alex, assis avec trois de ses camarades d'école sous des palmiers du bord de mer. Et parmi ses amis, deux doivent se débrouiller pour subvenir à leurs besoins depuis que leurs parents se sont réfugiés au Bénin voisin, le troisième étant orphelin.

Aneho durement touché par les violences post-électorales

A Aneho, une ville côtière à 45 km à l'est de Lomé, les militants de l'opposition ont manifesté leur mécontentement à l'issue des élections en s'attaquant aux édifices publics et aux résidences des partisans du parti au pouvoir. Selon des sources diplomatiques, ils auraient même réussi à se procurer quelques armes.

Mais la réponse des autorités a été rapide. Un habitant affirme qu'un hélicoptère militaire a tiré sur la foule alors que des camions déversaient en ville des forces militaires et de police qui tiraient des coups de feu en l'air et visaient parfois directement les manifestants.

Selon certains habitants, plusieurs manifestants ont été tués, même si le nombre exact de victimes est inconnu.

Le gouvernement a ouvert une enquête sur les violences post-électorales et des groupes de défense des droits humains ont choisi de mener leurs propres investigations sur ces évènements.

Plusieurs habitants d'Aneho sont convaincus que le gouvernement a recruté des mercenaires étrangers, originaires d'autres pays africains, pour mener les attaques les plus violentes.

«Parmi les militaires qui ont durement torturé mon époux, certains étaient congolais», a déclaré une militante de l'opposition. «Ils n'étaient pas d'ici: ils ne parlaient pas le Mina [le principal dialecte local]; ils parlaient Lingala [un dialecte d'Afrique centrale] et avaient la peau foncée».

S'il n'a pas été possible de vérifier ces allégations, certaines sources diplomatiques et humanitaires reconnaissent cependant que le gouvernement a peut être demandé l'aide de forces étrangères pour faire face à la grave crise que traversait le pays.

Près de la moitié des réfugiés sont des enfants

Selon l'agence des Nations unies pour les enfants (UNICEF), parmi les 20 000 Togolais qui ont cherché refuge au Bénin, près de 200 seraient des enfants de 9 à 17 ans, abandonnés ou séparés de leurs parents et nécessitant une assistance et un soutien urgents.

«Certains ont affirmé avoir vu leurs parents se faire tuer», a indiqué l'UNICEF dans une rapport qui précise que près de la moitié des réfugiés étaient des enfants.

Mais pour Alex et ses amis qui sont restés au Togo, la vie n'est pas plus facile. Ecumer la mer à la recherche de gravillons est un travail éprouvant et les garçons craignent que l'eau ne soit polluée.

A l'horizon, on aperçoit le quai d'où les bateaux chargent le phosphate des mines de la région. Et en aval, à l'endroit où Alex et ses amis travaillent, l'eau est d'un vert fluorescent.

«Les dépôts dans l'eau irritent nos yeux», explique un des amis d'Alex.

«Et tous les poissons qui se hasardent ici meurent», ajoute un autre, en montrant une zone beaucoup plus colorée le long de la côte. «Ils flottent à la surface!»

Le plus important pour ces garçons est d'aller au bout de leur scolarité qui s'achève dans quelques semaines. Après, ils rejoindront peut-être leurs parents au Bénin.

Certains jeunes étudiants qui avait fui sont revenus pour passer leurs examens. Pour Edoh, un petit homme entre deux âges qui vit à Aneho, ils font preuve de témérité.

«Mon petit frère est revenu, mais je lui ai dit de retourner au Bénin! Ils ont arrêté tant de jeunes collégiens. Le forces de sécurité ont emmené des jeunes garçons la semaine dernière et depuis on ne les a plus revus», a-t-il dit.

10 000 personnes déplacées à l'intérieur du pays

Selon l'agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), plus de 33 000 Togolais se sont réfugiés au Bénin et au Ghana, et même si l'afflux de réfugiés vers le Ghana a cessé, un nombre important de jeunes gens apeurés continue d'arriver au Bénin.

La plupart des personnes restées à Aneho sont des femmes, des enfants et des personnes âgées.

A l'office de dimanche dernier à la cathédrale catholique, seuls 200 membres de la communauté étaient présents alors que les 800 places de l'église sont normalement toutes occupées, a confié le prêtre à IRIN. Ce sont principalement des femmes qui ont assisté à cet office, a-t-il noté.

Mais toutes les personnes en fuite n'ont pas quitté le Togo.

Certaines agences des Nations unies travaillant avec des ONG locales et internationales estiment à 10 000 personnes le nombre de déplacés à l'intérieur du Togo depuis le début des émeutes post-électorales.

L'UNICEF a fourni près de 1 150 colis de denrées alimentaires et des produits de première nécessité distribués par des ONG locales et les autorités dans les villes du sud telles que Aneho, Atakpame, Kpalime et Lomé.

UNICEF estime que 5 800 personnes bénéficieront de cette aide, en comptant que chaque famille est composée en moyenne de cinq membres.

Nous ne savons pas quel est le pourcentage de femmes ou d'enfants chez les personnes déplacées, mais ils semblent constituer la majorité», a déclaré Aicha Flambert, directrice togolaise de l'UNICEF.

Il est difficile d'obtenir des informations fiables. Selon certaines ONG locales, les déplacés ont peur de signaler leur présence aux chefs de village, à plus forte raison aux autorités locales, par crainte de représailles.

«La plus grande difficulté que nous rencontrons ici est le manque d'information, mais les gens sont dans le besoin. Nous avons donc décidé de commencer la distribution de rations sans en tenir compte.


Togo: UN Agencies Working to Locate HIV Patients Displaced By Post Election Violence

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005

Lome

Post-election violence has forced tens of thousands of Togolese to flee their homes, some of whom are living with AIDS and no longer have access to life prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.

"We have started to identify people with HIV who fled from their homes without their medication," said Aicha Flambert, head of UNICEF in Togo.

"We hope the planned expansion of our system of epidemiological surveillance among the displaced will help us to track them and even show up new cases," she told PlusNews.

UNICEF could not confirm how many people living with AIDS had been forced to stop taking their drugs.

About six percent of Togo's five million population is HIV positive, according to a survey carried out in 2001.

The local association of people living with AIDS said in March that 2,500 people in Togo were taking ARV drugs, although 15,000 people would benefit from them.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 34,000 people have fled to neighbouring Benin and Ghana since violence erupted after a controversial presidential election on 24 April.

Local non-governmental organisations and UN aid workers estimate a further 10,000 have been internally displaced within Togo since violent protests erupted when the government declared Faure Gnassingbe, a son of Togo's late president Gnassingbe Eyademak, to be the winner.

Opposition leaders claim the poll was rigged in Gnassingbe's favour and have accused the government of launching a campaign of persecution against known and suspected supporters of the opposition.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Benin-Togo: Back to School, But in Another Country, for Togolese Refugee Children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005

Agame

With little time left before the end of the school year and exams, 1,600 Togolese refugee children went back to school on Monday in camps set up in Benin for refugees who have fled Togo's post-election unrest.

Children of all ages, from nursery school children to teenagers hoping to complete their final secondary-school exams, flopped down on mats laid out on floors of makeshift classrooms provided by the UN children's agency UNICEF at the Lokossa refugee camp, which lies 18 km away from the Togolese border.

"Education is the best means of bringing back a sense of normal life to these children," said Philippe Duhamelle, who heads UNICEF operations in Benin. "Going back to school will help them overcome the trauma they've just been through."

"Some of these kids were victims of violence, or direct witnesses," Duhamelle added. "School will help them deal with this, it will help them project into the future again."

UNICEF says that children account for close to 50 percent of the refugees in Benin, who fled Togo after a disputed presidential poll on 24 April. Among them are almost 200 separated and unaccompanied children aged between 9 and 17.

Early on Monday morning, more than 1,000 children were marched into 14 classrooms built of wood and plastic sheeting at Lokossa camp, where almost 5,500 people are housed.

A further 500 youngsters enrolled for class at the smaller Come camp closer to the border that shelters some 1,400 people. There, lessons took place in the entrance hall of a community centre built of brick, to the sound of the pounding of the season's first rainstorms.

Refugees have been streaming across Togo's borders to Benin and Ghana ever since opposition supporters took to the streets to protest against the election of Faure Gnassingbe, a son of the former authoritarian head of state, at the end of April.

His father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, ruled the country for 38 years until his death last February and the opposition maintains that the son's election was rigged.

Diplomats have said more than 100 people were killed in the post-election violence, while the Togolese League of Human Rights puts the death toll at around 800.

A total 34,416 refugees had registered in Benin and Ghana, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said last Friday. Of the almost 20,000 people who fled to Benin, around a third are accommodated in camps at Lokossa and Come, both run by UNHCR, while the remainder have opted to live with friends or family.

A full five weeks after the controversial poll, up to 200 people have been leaving Togo daily because of continued intimidation and harassment by the security forces in areas believed to back the opposition, UN officials say.

Rafick Saidi, who heads UNHCR's Benin office, said some Togolese teenagers had returned home last week to sit the first part of their school leaver's exams.

But while the girls made it back to school for the exams, many boys returned to the camps in fear after being told their names were on lists of people wanted by police, he said.

UNICEF, which is appealing for US $395,000 to provide six months of schooling to children in the Benin camps, is using 53 teachers in the schools, who are also refugees from Togo.

The funds cover 2,000 children in the camps as well as schooling needs for 2,000 refugee children in host communities.

But there are differences between the education syllabuses in the two neighbouring countries.

Ayena Arouna, a school inspector from Benin, told IRIN that the curriculum for the school-leavers "baccalaureate" exam was not quite the same in Benin as in Togo. However, he said because the school year was running late in Benin due to strikes, the Togo school-leavers would have plenty of time to catch up before exams are held in July.

This was good news for 20-year-old Blandine Wakesso.

"We're really glad we can go back to school and end the year," she told IRIN. "Whatever happens I aim to complete my studies here and pass the baccalaureate in Benin."

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Togo: Children Suffering Most in Post-Poll Exodus

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005

Aneho

Since Alex's parents fled to Benin in fear of persecution after Togo's controversial presidential election last month, the 14-year-old boy has come to the beach every morning to collect stones that he sells to construction workers in order to feed himself.

"My parents took part in demonstrations after the elections, and they became frightened and left," the teenager said.

Like thousands of other opposition supporters, Alex's parents took to the streets in outrage after the 24 April poll legitimised a disputed father-to-son transition.

Faure Gnassingbe, the son of Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled Togo for 38 years until his death last February, was declared winner of the poll the opposition says was rigged.

Opposition protests were brutally put down by the security forces in the days immediately following the election results. And residents in both Aneho and the capital Lome say the crackdown against opponents has continued ever since, often quietly in the dead of night.

Alex's parents decided to flee the 5 km from the eastern city of Aneho to the border with Benin. His 12-year-old brother went with them, but Alex opted to stay behind and finish the school year.

"I'm staying with my uncle," he told IRIN on the beach. "But because he's unemployed I've been coming down here regularly to collect stones so that I can eat."

Alex is not his real name, but the teenager, like many other frightened residents of Aneho, is reluctant to be identified.

Every day he comes down to the beach at 6 a.m. to start work. After four hours of scooping his specially-made net through crashing waves he collects a mound of stones that he can sell on to local builders for 1,500 CFA, about US $3.

"It's tiring," Alex said, while resting with three school friends in the shade of seafront palm trees.

Two of them, like Alex, have had to fend for themselves since their parents ran off to Benin. The other is an orphan.

In Aneho, a coastal town 45 km east of Lome, opposition activists vented their frustration after the election by attacking local government buildings and the homes of ruling party supporters.

According to diplomats, they even managed to commandeer a few guns.

But the government response was swift. Local residents said a military helicopter fired from the air as truckloads of troops and police descended on the town, firing their guns into the air and sometimes directly at the demonstrators.

Some of the protesters were killed, although no one is sure of the number, residents explained.

The government has opened a probe into post-poll violence and human rights groups are conducting their own investigations into what happened.

Some residents of Aneho said they were convinced that the government used mercenaries from elsewhere in Africa to carry out the most violent attacks.

"Some of the soldiers, the ones that beat my husband very badly, they were from Congo," said one opposition supporter. "They were not from here: they did not understand Minna [a main local language]; they spoke Lingala [a popular language in central Africa] and they were very dark-skinned."

It was impossible to verify such reports, although diplomats and aid workers said that in such times of extreme tension the government may well have called in the assistance of an outside force.

Almost half of the refugees are children

In Benin, which is sheltering close to 20,000 refugees, the UN children's agency UNICEF says there are close to 200 unaccompanied and separated children aged between 9 and 17 who need urgent support and assistance.

"Some declared they saw their parents killed," UNICEF said in a statement, adding that children accounted for nearly half of the total number of refugees.

For Alex and his friends who stayed in Togo, life is no easier. Gathering stones in the sea is tiring work and they fear the water is polluted.

On the horizon is a jetty where phosphates from a nearby mine are loaded onto ships and down current from the jetty, where Alex and his friends work, the water is lime green.

"The stuff in the sea makes our eyes sore," complains one of Alex's friends.

"And if the fish come into this bit, they die! " says another, pointing to a more deeply-coloured slick along the shoreline. "They float to the surface!"

The most important thing for all these boys is to finish the school year, which is only a few weeks away. After that, perhaps they'll join their parents in Benin.

Some youngsters who initially fled have come back to sit their exams. But according to Edoh, a small middle-aged man who also lives in Aneho, they were foolhardy.

"My younger brother came back, but I told him to go right back to Benin! They made some arrests at the college - I don't know how many. A group of lads were taken away by the military last week and haven't been seen since," he said.

10,000 people internally displaced

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, there are over 33,000 Togolese refugees in Benin and Ghana, and though the flow into Ghana has stopped, more frightened young men are still arriving in Benin.

Most of those remaining in Aneho are women, children and the elderly.

At the Roman Catholic cathedral last Sunday, there were only 200 people in the congregation compared with a usual packed house of 800, a priest told IRIN. Those who did attend were mostly women, he noted.

But not all those who have fled their homes have left Togo.

UN agencies working with international and local NGO partners estimate that 10,000 people have been displaced within Togo's borders since the election unleashed a storm of violence.

Some 1,150 UNICEF food parcels and other emergency items are being distributed through local NGOs and the government in the southern towns of Aneho, Atakpame, Kpalime and Lome.

UNICEF estimates this aid will benefit 5,800 people, working on the basis that each family has an average of five members.

"We don't know what proportion of the displaced are women and children, though they seem to be the majority," said Aicha Flambert, the head of UNICEF in Togo.

Collecting reliable information is proving problematic. Local NGOs say that displaced people are often reluctant to inform the village chief of their presence, never mind the local government authorities, for fear of reprisals.

"The biggest problem we have here is information, but people are in need so we have decided to begin distributions regardless," said Flambert.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]