afrol News, 7 October - Togo's Prime Minister, Koffi Sama, is furious with the opposition, which he claims is sabotaging government efforts to normalise relations with the European Union (EU). The EU has demanded a true democratisation process in Togo, but the opposition UFC party told European officials the process was "mere window dressing."
The Togolese government has made great efforts this year to the EU that it is implementing a deep-ploughing democratisation process that includes the respect of human rights. The approval of a liberal press code, the freeing of political prisoners and other efforts to "strengthen the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law" have been presented to Brussels bureaucrats as a great progress by the government.
An EU delegation currently visiting the country however also wanted to hear the opposition's view of the government's democratisation agenda. At the offices of Togo's main opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), the European delegates this week were handed over a document summarising the party's view. The letter gave a devastating verdict on the so-called "democratisation process".
- It is clear that the regime is presenting two different faces, the UFC letter to the EU said. The "democratisation efforts" of the government were described as "mere window dressing," where the authoritarian regime of President Gnassingbé Eyadema maintained total control of developments.
The opposition party, whose leader Gilchrist Olympio was barred from being candidate in last year's presidential poll, has at many occasions criticised the current reform process. In an open letter to Prime Minister Sama two weeks ago, the UFC and two other opposition parties protested the handling of what the government calls a "national dialogue".
At the "national dialogue" meetings, according to the Togolese opposition, had degenerated into "simple consultations", where the government and its allies were orienting the opposition of decisions already taken. This, warned the UFC, was "not likely to contribute to a solution to the crisis."
Prime Minister Sama, on the other hand, claims that the UFC is "sabotaging government efforts" to improve Togolese-EU relations. Mr Sama in particular reacted to the fact that the UFC had handed its negative letter over to EU representatives, which according to him clearly showed the opposition wanted to prolong the economic sanctions of the EU against Togo.
In an official response to the UFC, the Prime Minister says that the opposition "seems determined to proceed on this way of manipulation, intoxication, violence and exploitation of tribal differences to provoke chaos and grip power while counting on the support of certain foreign friends." Mr Sama did not elaborate on his allegations against the UFC.
President Eyadema has been in power since a military coup in 1967, but during the last two decades, his authoritarian regime has been accused of extreme human rights violations. This in 1993 led the EU to cancel its bilateral cooperation with Togo, a cooperation it has with all African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations. The frozen EU programmes for Togo are worth over euro 40 million in investments from the European Development Fund (EDF).
To lift its sanctions against the Togolese regime, the EU has demanded far-reaching democratisation. As a consequence of last year's undemocratic presidential polls, which reinstated Mr Eyadema, the EU now also demands a new electoral code and new elections before resuming cooperation.
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