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TOGO: All calm in the heartland of the ruling elite
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views
of the United Nations]
(Melanie Atchole in her Faure Gnassingbe election T-shirt)
KARA, 3 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Walking around the lush hills in the northern town of Kara, there is no sign of violence and fear that engulfed the rest of Togo following disputed presidential elections.
While in the south many people are nursing their gunshot wounds and hiding out in the bush, the residents of Kara are in a more celebratory mood after seeing the son of their most famous resident elected president.
Kara is the hometown of the late Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled this tiny West African nation for 38 years until his death in February. His son Faure Gnassingbe was elected to the presidency in a 24 April poll that opposition said was rigged.
Gnassingbe's victory triggered street battles between opposition protestors and government security forces from the southern coastal capital of Lome to the north-central farming town of Sokode.
But Kara was an oasis of calm.
"There have not been any problems or violence here. We have never had people challenge the result - only people in the south have had that," one humanitarian worker in the town told IRIN.
On the streets of Kara, many people are still wearing the election day T-shirts handed out by the ruling party, which are emblazoned with a besuited Gnassingbe in mid-sentence and slogans blaring "For peace and development vote Faure!".
Kara, which lies 350 km from the capital, is the main town for Eyadema's ethnic group, the Kabiye. His son has more mixed roots, with a mother from the south, but the town is still behind him.
"I voted for Faure as he brings peace! All the others will chase the Kabiye and the people from the north out of the south. That's what they wanted to do after Gnassingbe Eyadema died," said Melanie Atchole, who was still proudly sporting her election T-shirt.
Diplomats say the Kabiye and in particular family members of the late president, have tight control over the country politically, economically and militarily.
"After 38 years in office, the Eyadema clan is firmly entrenched. He had lots of children and many of them have positions of power, not just Faure," said one diplomat who refused to be named.
Gnassingbe's brother, Ernest, was in charge of the army's parachute regiment and had been favourite to succeed his father until he fell ill. Another sibling Rock is president of the Togolese Football Federation.
Brother Kpatcha heads the state body SAZOF, which oversees investments into and exports out of the country.
Opposition supporters across the country told IRIN how state-sponsored thugs, often Kabiye, were bussed in from out of town to terrorise residents.
"Lorry loads of young men from Kara arrived in town the day the results were announced. They were armed with machetes, clubs and arrows. They burned houses while the military looked on," one resident in Sokode recounted.
It was tale echoed in Lome, the central town of Atakpame, Aneho in the southeast and Kpalime on the western border.
Back in Kara, the local government officer, himself a Kabiye, said he was unaware of such reports.
"I know nothing of that. But there are Kabiye everywhere. It is not necessarily the Kabiye of Kara," said Yata Pepa Walakyem from the terrace of his official residence in Kara. "As for the lorries, I don't know of any such thing being organised and I think I would if that were the case."
Nonetheless, Kara remains the main training centre for the Togolese military.
It was with the backing of the military that Gnassingbe first seized power within hours of his father's death, before he was forced to stand down and hold elections, under pressure from the international community.
"In every family [here in Kara] you will find a military person - it's been like that since colonial times....it's become a tradition," explained Walakyem, whose own father was a soldier and has six members of his family now serving.
But southerners are tired of that tradition, which they say enabled Eyadema to rule the country like a king and accord the same advantages to his son.
"Many people here in the south would rather this country split in two than this carry on. Let them have their monarchy in the north so that we can have our democracy in the south," said one old woman in Lome, whose father was an independence activist in the 1950s.
Today's date: Saturday, 4 June 2005
Togo: 1,000 arrivals registered in Benin in last week, none reported in Ghana
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 3 June 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The number of refugees fleeing from Togo into neighbouring Benin is continuing at a steady rate, with over a 1,000 new arrivals registered in the last week. By contrast, in Ghana on Togo's western border, no new arrivals or returns have been noted over the last 10 days. The overall total of refugees in both countries is 35,743, compared to 34,416 a week earlier. There are 15,144 refugees registered in Ghana and 20,599 in Benin.
Refugees arriving in Benin, say they are fleeing continued abductions and disappearances by armed groups in the night which is fuelling an atmosphere of fear and revenge.
In Benin, about a third of the refugees are in two camps, while the remainder are staying with friends and family. In Ghana, where nearly all refugees are staying with host families, UNHCR, along with its partners, are providing the families and refugees with various forms of support to enable to refugees to continue to stay in this welcoming community atmosphere. Communities are being helped with items such as hand pumps to improve the water supply, food, building tools, construction advice, mosquito nets.
Story date: 3 Jun 2005