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Diplomats Hope for Resolution to Togo Crisis

  • Gabi Menezes

The West African regional grouping ECOWAS says that efforts to mediate what it calls an illegal presidency in Togo have been 'fruitful'. People in Togo are waiting for embattled President Faure Gnassingbe, who came to power with the help of the military, to make a speech on whether he will call elections for the country.

Diplomats from the Economic Community of West African States are making clear to Togo's new president that their demands to hold elections were non-negotiable, and the group has threatened sanctions against the small country.

Niger's Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou, one of the senior diplomats leading the talks, said discussions were 'fruitful and encouraging.'

A Togolese general, Seyi Memene, said that the military had agreed "to return the country to constitutional order," but did not give further details on whether elections would be held within 60 days as specified in the former constitution.

Parliament changed Togo's constitution, so that Mr. Gnassingbe could govern in his father's place until 2008. The 39-year-old came to power when his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, suddenly died after 38 years in power. African leaders have condemned the transfer of power as a coup.

The opposition insists Mr. Gnassingbe step down, and let the former head of the national assembly take over until elections can be held.

The streets of Lome were quiet, after violent protests Monday in which at least one man was killed. Although security forces continue to patrol the streets, most people are going about their daily business as usual.

A Lome resident, Eklou Kpetigo, said that people are waiting for Mr. Gnassingbe to make an announcement about elections, and were optimistic that they would be held soon.

He said that if elections were called, people would vote in large numbers, aware the person they chose would lead Togo into the future.

Although Mr. Gnassingbe has promised to hold 'free and fair elections' he did not specify whether he meant legislative elections, or if he was giving people the opportunity to choose their president.