Togo's army-installed president fails to win
by Ola Awoniyi
ABUJA, Feb 17 (AFP) - Togo's new military-installed
leader Faure Gnassingbe failed Thursday to win over
the fiercest critic of his sudden seizure of power,
the chairman of the African Union, President Olusegun
Obasanjo of Nigeria.
Africa's newest president, who was hoisted into
office last week after the death of his autocratic
father Gnassingbe Eyadema, flew in to the Nigerian
capital Abuja to defend his unconstitutional putsch.
But the 39-year-old leader left for Lome with a new
warning and threat of sanctions ringing in his ears
and with his tiny west African republic's
constitutional crisis still far from resolved.
"The meeting was called at the instance of the
Togolese authorities themselves," Obasanjo's
spokeswoman Remi Oyo told reporters.
"President Obasanjo, while expressing an
understanding of their situation, left them in no
doubt as to the position of ECOWAS and the African
the unconstitutional takeover of power," she said.
"President Obasanjo advised them very strongly to
retrace their steps to the position of the
constitution, and following the position of the
constitution, to hold free, fair and transparent
elections," she added.
Gnassingbe came to Abuja accompanied by a large
entourage of ministers.
Last week he had been sworn into office at the
behest of the army after parliament brushed aside a
constitution which calls for the speaker of the
assembly to act as head of state pending elections to
be held within 60 days.
Togo's ECOWAS neighbours have led a chorus of
international condemnation of the powerplay and
Nigeria has been the most vociferous in its
what it calls Gnassingbe's "coup d'etat".
Oyo said that Gnassingbe and the large delegation
of ministers who accompanied him and tried to explain
"They told the president of the anxiety they had
following the death of President Eyadema, the fear of
the outbreak of violence, and that they took a
decision because they wanted to ensure that the state
The Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS) has threatened Togo with sanctions, including
its possible expulsion from the 15-nation bloc, if
Gnassingbe does not take rapid steps to restore
Gnassingbe was brought in from the airport in a car
which bore no flag on its bonnet and he was not
accorded the honour guard and special reception which
is normally laid on for recognised heads of state.
Nigeria, the region's military and economic giant
has recalled its ambassador from Togo, a tiny republic
of 4.7 million people wedged between Ghana and Benin,
and has slapped travel restrictions on Togolese
On Wednesday, Nigeria's Foreign Minister Olu
Adeniji had said on his return from talks in Lome that
he expected Gnassingbe to announce later that day to
the Togolese people that he was ready to step down. He
did not do so.
Togo's opposition has tried to mount a non-violent
resistance campaign to force Gnassingbe to step down
but has failed to generate much support among the
population, which fears reprisals from the well-armed
and disciplined military.
Three people were shot dead by police during
demonstrations on Saturday and another on Monday.
Embattled Togo leader in Nigeria
Togo's new head of state has arrived in Nigeria for talks to resolve the political crisis in his country.
African leaders have condemned the army-backed moves to install Faure Gnassingbe as president following his father's death.
On Wednesday night, he failed to make a promised address to the nation in a response to a West African ultimatum that fresh elections be held.
At least four people have been killed in protests against the "coup".
The opposition have said they will hold mass funerals for the protestors, but government has warned them not to make political capital out of them.
The constitution was changed after the death of President Gnassingbe Eyadema to allow his son to serve out his father's term of office, which ran until 2008.
Mr Faure was met in the Nigerian capital, Abuja by Nigeria's Foreign Minister Olu Adeniji, AFP news agency reports.
With other West African envoys he met Mr Faure on Tuesday in Lome - in talks described as "very fruitful and encouraging".
The meeting came as an ultimatum by Ecowas - the 15-member Economic Community of West African States - threatening Togo with sanctions unless it returned to constitutional order by the end of Tuesday expired.
"They gave us the impression that they will go back to the constitution but there are still some details on which we have to wait until they announce it," he told AFP.
But Mr Faure's anticipated speech did not take place on Wednesday as expected and a government official said the authorities had not confirmed that it would happen.
It is not clear if he will meet Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, the current chairman of the African Union.
Earlier, Nigeria said it had received an apology from Togo over the treatment of a group of Nigerian officials whose aircraft was prevented from landing in the Togolese capital last week.
A crackdown on private media continued on Tuesday with the closure of one television and three radio stations for "financial reasons", AFP reports, bringing to eight the number of stations shut down in the past 10 days.
According to the original constitution, parliamentary speaker Fambare Natchaba Ouattara was supposed to take over as caretaker leader following the death of Africa's longest-serving leader with elections to follow within two months.
However, parliament was hastily called to replace Mr Ouattara with Faure Gnassingbe.
The new leader has already promised "free and fair" elections soon - but correspondents say he may be referring to parliamentary polls due this year, rather than a presidential ballot.