- As the pressure against the coup authorities of Faure Gnassingbé in Togo is growing, Lomé authorities for the first time are talking about anticipated, free elections. African nations have now clearly stated that they will not recognise Mr Faure's authority and they are being followed by the US and the European Union (EU).
Following yesterday's strong-worded condemnation of the unconstitutional power transfer in Togo by the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) today went even further. At an extraordinary meeting in Niamey, Niger, West African state leaders said they would not recognise the new regime in Togo, which forms part of ECOWAS.
It is the first time that ECOWAS takes quick emergency steps to react to an unconstitutional power grab in a fellow West African nation. The ECOWAS summit followed the AU's Peace and Security Council in threatening with sanctions against Togo should the constitutional order not be restored.
The strong protest and action plan pronounced at the ECOWAS summit will have consequences for how other nations react to the new Lomé regime. The US State Department already yesterday said that Washington and the EU would await the ECOWAS reaction and act in line with Togo's neighbours.
This was today repeated by US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, who said that Washington "fully endorses" today's ECOWAS statement. "The United States calls on Togolese authorities to fully cooperate with ECOWAS, the African Union, and other members of the international community and to move peacefully and rapidly towards free and fair elections," Mr Ereli said in a statement today.
Equally, the EU presidency has issued a statement, supporting the declarations made by the AU and ECOWAS. "The EU condemns any violation of the constitutional provisions governing the provisional exercise of power, which it regards as a coup d'état. It calls on all politicians and State institutions to work to ensure a peaceful transition towards a democratic system," the statement said.
International pressure against the Lomé government is also growing from the non-governmental sector. The New York-based group Good Governance International has written to the US President and the UN Secretary General, asking them to "immediately suspends both socio-economic and diplomatic considerations" with Togo. Equally, the African regional trade union organisation (ICFTU/AFRO) is mobilising for a democratic election of a new Togolese leader.
In Togo, trade unions and the political opposition are following the call by ICFTU/AFRO and organised a two-day general strike yesterday and today to protest at what they called a military coup. While the strike only was partially observed by Togo's intimidated workforce, parts of Lomé's businesses and institutions were however paralysed.
In the Togolese capital, protests against the new regime have so far been scarce and of small size. Exceptions were protests at the university of Lomé and the partly observed general strike. The city has however been dominated by the armed forces since the military took control of government on Saturday, following the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadema. Protests are usually met with harsh repression in Togo.
The growing pressure against the new rulers in Lomé has however impressed self-styled "President" Faure Gnassingbé. While he said that he would remain in power until the term of his deceased father ends during his first speech to the nation, Mr Faure today said that he was now considering "free and transparent elections," to be organised "as soon as possible."
The speech to the nation, broadcasted on state television and radio, further announced democratic reforms. Mr Faure said that he wanted "serious discussions" with the Togolese opposition, including exiled opposition leaders. He indirectly invited Gilchrist Olympio back home from his Paris exile. It is widely believed that Mr Olympio would have won Togo's 2003 presidential elections if he had not been banned from standing against late President Eyadema.
Mr Faure's speech to the nation however left more questions than answers. The self-styled Togolese leader did not reveal what kind of elections he was envisaging, if presidential elections would be held within 90 days according to the constitution, when they would be held and whether the suddenly amended constitution would be restored.
These key issues, not mentioned by Mr Faure in his speech, were the main demands by the AU and ECOWAS to normalise ties with Togolese authorities. The speech nevertheless marked a turning point in the Togolese coup, being the first concessions made by the coup-makers. Increased pressure thus may soon show results as the new Lomé regime has started demonstrating weaknesses.
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