- Four protesters have been killed by police during the opposition demonstrations in Togo during the last days. More protests are planned. Meanwhile, Togo's neighbour states have given the coup-makers in Lomé an ultimatum to step down within a few days and expect an answer by tomorrow.
The Togolese opposition's protest marches against the unconstitutional government of Faure Gnassingbé are gaining momentum despite the authorities' official ban on demonstrations during the two-month "national mourning" of late President Gnassingbé Eyadema. Since the first marches in the capital, Lomé, on Friday, the protests have grown in scale each day.
Saturday's protests were the most violent so far, as armed police and army troops shot at the demonstrators, killing at least three persons. The security forces were armed with machine guns. Of the several thousand protesters, some hundred answered the police's and army's gunshots by erecting barricades, throwing stones and setting tyres on fire. Several were wounded in the riots.
While Lomé maintained a calm day on Sunday, the opposition today again organised mass action against the new Togolese regime. A second general strike was called for by unions and the opposition, shutting down most businesses and public services in large parts of Lomé. Opposition followers setting up barricades in the capital were today again attacked by security forces, leaving at least one dead and several wounded.
Within Togo, almost the entire opposition has gathered behind the demand for coup leader Faure Gnassingbé, son of the deceased President, to step down and respect the constitution. According to the constitutional order, parliamentary speaker Fambare Natchaba Ouattaba should have taken over the presidency at President Eyadema's death, only to prepare new presidential elections within 90 days.
The return to this constitutional order has also been the demand by the international community, forcefully headed by the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). A Togolese mission, headed by Prime Minister Koffi Sama, on Saturday finally met with the ECOWAS leadership in Niamey, the capital of Niger, to formally receive the Community's ultimatum.
Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja, who is also the current leader of ECOWAS, told the Togolese Prime Minister that the constitutional order had to be reintroduced "swiftly". Parliamentary speaker Ouattaba should be named interim President of Togo and there should be made preparations for presidential elections, to be held within 60 days.
Otherwise, President Tandja told Prime Minister Sama, the first step by ECOWAS would be to exclude Togo from the Community. Economic sanctions would follow. ECOWAS and the AU were already in contact with other countries, including the United States and the European Union (EU) to secure an international follow-up of such sanctions.
The ECOWAS leader had not given a deadline for the de facto Togolese authorities, other than insisting on a "swift" change. According to ECOWAS spokeswoman Adrienne Diop, the West African community is now "waiting for the response" from Lomé to be given "in the shortest possible time." ECOWAS leader "expect it by tomorrow, at the latest," Ms Diop added.
According to statements by the Togolese de facto government, ECOWAS would soon receive an answer from Lomé. A formal response was now being considered. Despite demands by the ECOWAS leadership that Togo should send another delegation to Niamey to present its answer to the ultimatum, Togolese Foreign Minister Kokou Tozoun today said there was "no question of returning to Niamey."
Meanwhile, the current Nigerian presidency of the AU is heading diplomatic offensives to secure a total isolation of Togo in the case that the new regime in Lomé fails to comply with the ECOWAS ultimatum. According to the Nigerian presidency, also governments outside Africa were "keen on seeing that democracy returns to Togo."
In Nigeria, speculations are surfacing over possible ECOWAS plans to "invade Togo" if demands are not met. The crisis in Togo is seen as very damaging for the region in several ways.
Firstly, the impression created that "banana republics" are acceptable in West Africa may influence investments in the entire region. Secondly, "the virus" of monarchic succession may infect the region if accepted in Togo, as for example Nigeria's daily 'Vanguard' puts it in an editorial. It had been an error not to intervene in Congo Kinshasa (DRC) as Joseph Kabila succeeded his father Laurent four years ago, letting "the virus" breed, the 'Vanguard' holds.
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