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Cracks appear in opposition coalition over meetings with president

[Togo] Young opposition protestors man a barricade in the Be district of Lome, an opposition stronghold in the capital of Togo, February 26 2005.
Opposition youths manning the barricades in Be at the weekend (IRIN)

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 article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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