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African Leaders Condemn Togo's Transition to Gnassingbe Eyadema's Son

  • Nico Colombant

African organizations are condemning the announcement by Togo's army that the late long serving leader, Gnassingbe Eyadema, has been replaced by his son. The parliament speaker is supposed to take over, but he was trapped outside the small West African nation at the time of Mr. Eyadema's sudden death.

The head of the Economic Community of West African states, Niger's President Mamadou Tandja, urged Togo, a member of the organization, to re-establish constitutional order.

In case of the president's incapacity to govern, Togo's constitution says the parliament speaker should assume provisional power and new elections be held within 60 days.

But following the announcement that Mr. Eyadema had died Saturday at the age of 69, the army said his son, 39-year-old Faure Eyadema would become Togo's new leader. The army also closed all sea, land and air borders until further notice.

The parliament speaker, Fabare Tchaba, who had been in Europe discussing efforts to unfreeze European Union aid money by making pledges for democratic reform, was initially trapped in nearby Benin.

The chairman of the 53-nation African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare, called Saturday's developments a military coup.

He said Togolese should honor the memory of Mr. Eyadema by quickly organizing free and fair elections.

State television in Lome called for two months of national mourning, while it played continuous religious music over a picture of Mr. Eyadema in a dark blue suit with Christian crosses in the background.

The streets of the capital were calm Sunday, as some residents went to church while others awaited an announcement by their new leader.

The main opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, spoke to VOA from his exile in Paris, saying his party's struggle for democracy continues. His father, Togo's founding president, was killed in one of Africa's first post-colonial coups, led by Mr. Eyadema in 1963.

"We have got one person in power for over 40 years. He is dead and to put his son in power so there could be a dynastic succession we do not approve of. We are a political party, we'll continue to fight any form of dictatorship, a military dictatorship," he said.

Mr. Eyadema formally took power after a second coup in 1967, making him the world's second longest ruling leader at the time of his death, behind only Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Government officials say he died while he was being evacuated abroad for treatment, after suffering an apparent heart attack.

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