- The European Union (EU) will not send election observers to the 24 April presidential poll in Togo. The EU states that there is not enough time to prepare for such a mission, and Togolese authorities fear that this again could complicate relations with Brussels.
According to information released by the Togolese government today, EU representatives in Lomé had declared that "there will be no EU observation mission during the presidential elections in Togo" because the time limit was too short. "There would be a need of at least three months" to prepare for such a mission, the EU source was quoted as saying.
This will be the second presidential poll in a row were the EU fails to send an observation mission. At the June 2003 elections, Brussels did not send observers to protest the Togolese government's failure to reach an agreement with the opposition on an electoral code reform. Togo's main opposition parties also boycotted the poll.
Relations between Lomé and Brussels have been tense since 1993 as European countries demand democratic reform and respect of basic human rights in Togo to resume frozen development aid programmes worth hundreds of millions of euros. Since the 2003 poll, the EU has demanded new presidential elections to resume full cooperation.
Togo-EU relations however were thawing last year as Lomé authorities significantly improved the human rights situation in the country. The EU on 15 November partially resumed its aid programmes with Togo, but still demanded new elections organised in a free and fair way and in agreement with the opposition.
Following the 5 February death of Togo's President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, democratic reform took several steps backwards in the country. The military forces handed over power to late President Eyadéma's son, Faure Gnassingbé, in what was generally termed a coup. Only on 25 February, Mr Gnassingbé agreed to step down and prepare for new elections, following massive pressure from West African neighbours, the EU and others.
There are still many doubts whether the upcoming elections will be free and fair. Mr Gnassingbé, who runs as the ruling party's candidate, has the backing of Togo's armed forces, the interim President, parliament, the judiciary and state media. It is still unclear whether Togo's most known opposition politician, Gilchrist Olympio, is allowed to stand as candidate as he is exiled in Paris.
Due to these many doubts on whether the upcoming elections will be free and fair, the EU's absence on 24 April may be a signal that Togo's potentially greatest donor does not trust in a democratic transition. If Mr Olympio is not allowed to stand candidate, it is probable that the EU not will accept a possible victory by Mr Gnassingbé. A resumption of funds from Brussels could therefore be further delayed.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.