Togo: Police Shoot Dead Opposition Protestor
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 8, 2005
One man was killed and several were injured as opposition protestors clashed with police in the capital Lome and several towns in the interior of Togo on Friday, an alliance of the country's main opposition parties said on Friday.
Police opened fire on demonstrators with automatic weapons in the town of Tabligbo, 60 km north of Lome, killing one man and injuring several others, the opposition alliance said in a statement.
It also reported that protestors were hurt in clashes with the security forces in Kpalime and Keve on the Ghanaian frontier.
In Lome, eyewitnesses said police used tear gas and fragmentation grenades to try and disperse several thousand opposition protestors who marched on the town hall to demand voting cards so they could take part in a landmark presidential election due on 24 April.
Voter registration was due to have ended on Tuesday, but the government, which faces opposition charges that it is planning to rig the election, has pledged to make voting cards available up to the last minute so that nobody will be left out.
However, it has rejected opposition demands for the election to be postponed so that a free and fair election can be properly organised under international supervision.
The European Union has declined to send observers to monitor the poll and the United States is still mulling whether or not to do so.
The six main opposition parties have united behind a single candidate to challenge the son and heir apparent of the late president Gnassingbe Eyadema. He died in February after ruling this small West African country with an iron hand for 38 years. The formerly fragmented opposition is demanding a new era of freedom and change.
The election is likely to be straight fight between Faure Gnassingbe, the 39-year-old son of Eyadema, and Emmanuel Bob-Akitani, the candidate of the opposition alliance. Two other minor candidates are only expected to attract a handful of votes.
However, the opposition parties have accused the authorities of withholding voting cards in opposition bastions and of playing havoc with the electoral roll ahead of the hastily arranged presidential election, which is just over two weeks away.
Interior Minister Akila-Esso Boko, said two big hand-outs of cards were being organised in Lome this weekend "for people who were unable to put their names on the electoral roll and pick up cards" before the initial deadline for registration expired.
"In any case voting cards will be distributed up to the eve of the election," he said at a meeting with party leaders on Thursday.
The interior minister said that during the initial 10-day period allocated to update the electoral roll, 450,000 new voters had been registered and 100,000 names had been struck off. A further two million registered voters had been handed new cards, he added.
Interim President Abass Bonfoh declared campaigning officially open in a speech urging "each one of us to avoid feeding tension and upsetting our climate of peace and security."
Gnassingbe, who briefly seized power with the help of the army after his father's sudden demise on 5 February is standing as the candidate of the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), which controls the government and virtually all the seats in parliament.
He launched his election campaign on Friday in the Eyadema family's traditional stronghold in northern Togo.
Clashes in Togo
08/04/2005 13:57 - (SA)
Lome - Police in Togo on Friday used teargas to break up a demonstration by thousands of members of the opposition on the first day of a election campaign in the small West African country.
Clashes broke out in central Lome when members mainly of the opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC) marched on the city hall to demand voters' cards for the presidential election, slated by the authorities for April 24.
On Wednesday, violence broke out on the fringes of rival rallies by the UFC and the running Togolese People's Rally (RPT). Supporters of the former wanted a delay in the election to give the opposition time to prepare, while the party in power pressed for the poll to be held as planned.
The campaign that officially started on Friday is for the election of a head of state to succeed Africa's longest-ruling president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died on February 5, leading to a political crisis when the army and the RPT moved swiftly to hoist his son, Faure Gnassinge, into the top job.
Under strong African and international pressure, Gnassingbe stood down and arrangements were made to hold the election on April 24, in which he will be facing three other candidates.
Late on Thursday, Interior Minister Francois Akila Esso Boko announced that "exceptional measures" to distribute voters' cards would take place in Lome on Saturday and Sunday to benefit people who had been unable to register on the official rolls.
After police moved in to disperse the mainly UFC crowds on Friday, the demonstrators withdrew to the working-class districts of Be and Dekon, which are traditional opposition strongholds.
Zimbabwe: MDC Rejects Electoral Commission's Explanation
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 8, 2005
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has denied rigging the 31 March legislative elections, but its attempt to explain discrepancies in vote tallies has been rejected by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told IRIN on Friday that the party would press ahead with its petition to the Electoral Court regarding inconsistencies between vote tallies televised at the close of polling and the final count of votes received by candidates.
According to results announced by the ZEC, the ruling ZANU-PF party took 78 of the 120 contested seats, the MDC garnered 41, and one seat was won by an independent candidate, former cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo.
When the final vote tallies were announced there were increases or decreases of as much as 15,000 votes in about 30 constituencies.
Addressing a media conference on Thursday, the ZEC chairman, retired Colonel George Chiweshe, said the commission believed the elections and poll count were conducted in a free and fair manner.
He had called the press conference to respond to the MDC's ultimatum to explain the discrepancies, otherwise the party would take legal action.
Chiweshe said the figures announced on television "were mere updates from various people on the ground, which we had not verified".
Asked why the ZEC had earlier announced that 36,821 ballots had been cast at the close of polling in Beitbridge, which was later reduced to 20,602, Chiweshe said it was because they had not verified the information they had received from the ZEC officials on the ground.
"We wanted to give an indication of the voting trends," he told journalists.
However, the MDC was not appeased. "His attempt to explain the discrepancies was pathetic; nobody believed it because everyone knows what happened," Nyathi said. "We have to go to the Electoral Court and exhaust all legal means [of challenging the poll results]".
The African Union observer team has already called on the ZEC to investigate the discrepancies.