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ECOWAS Pressures Togo's President to Resign

  • Gabi Menezes

The foreign ministers of Nigeria and Niger and the ECOWAS secretary-general are trying to end Togo's crisis by pressuring the embattled President Gnassingbe to allow elections within 60 days.

Nigeria, which heads the African Union, said Monday that it had not yet ruled out the use of force against Togo as a last resort. A spokesman for Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Remi Oyo, said that there were still other options to consider like sanctions, but there was still time for mediation to work.

"By nature the President Olusegun Obasanjo, the chair of the African Union, is an optimistic person. So he is optimistic that even on this occasion, reason will triumph and that together we will be able to solve the situation in Togo, and get Togo and the Togolese people back on track," he said.

The 15-member ECOWAS group has also threatened economic sanctions against Togo, and said that troops are a final option.

Togolese officials say their foreign minister, several generals and ruling party officials will take part in the talks.

A London-based West Africa security analyst Richard Reeve says that it is unlikely that African leaders will let the crisis in Togo escalate into a conflict.

"They don't have to precipitate a violent reaction on the streets," said Mr. Reeve. "I think that's probably not going to be on either sides interest to provoke that. Certainly not in Nigeria's interest, or the other power brokers in West Africa. They don't want another violent conflict in the region and you can see from Togo's geography how easy that would be to spill over into Ghana, Benin and Nigeria as well, I guess."

The streets of Lome remained calm after protesters clashed with police Monday, killing one man, when the opposition tried to hold a general strike to protest Mr. Gnassingbe's presidency. The 39-year-old was made president earlier this month after the sudden death of his father Gnassinge Eyadema who ruled for 38 years.

Parliament amended the constitution clearing the way for Mr. Gnassingbe to finish his father's term until 2008, but West African leaders are demanding that Togo follow the original constitution and let the original speaker of parliament take over the presidency and hold elections soon.

Togolese opposition leaders have said that they will continue with protests against Mr. Gnassingbe despite the military's crackdown, and the continued presence of military and riot police on the streets of the capital.