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Togo Talks Move to Nigeria

  • Gabi Menezes

Togo's military-installed president, Faure Gnassingbe, has met with the head of the African Union, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is pressuring Mr. Gnassingbe to step down from the presidency.

The Nigerian leader began talks with Mr. Gnassingbe Thursday at the presidential villa outside Abuja, calling it a family meeting where they put their heads together and do what is right.

Mr. Obasanjo said he was confident that an amicable solution would be reached.

No details of the talks were immediately available. Togo's 39-year-old leader was accompanied by a large delegation that included some generals.

Mr. Obasanjo has previously threatened military action unless Togo holds presidential elections. Mr. Gnassingbe assumed power after his father, the long-ruling President Gnassingbe Eyadema, died suddenly earlier this month.

Prior to Mr. Gnassingbe's visit to Nigeria, it was believed that an agreement to hold elections had been reached by diplomats from the West African regional group ECOWAS. In Togo's capital, Lome, people waited for a televised address from Mr. Gnassingbe Wednesday night about the ECOWAS talks, but it didn't happen.

A spokesman from ECOWAS, Mr. Hadio Assielou, said that the initial ECOWAS talks did not produce results.

"The president was supposed to deliver a speech to tell us the agreement they've reached between the Togolese authorities and ECOWAS, but unfortunately we have not had the opportunity to hear that speech, so nothing has filtered from people neither from ECOWAS nor from the authorities," he said.

Mr. Assielou added that after several days of protests in Lome against Mr. Gnassingbe's government, the city was calm, and people optimistic that diplomacy would succeed.

"The capital is quite calm," he said. "Everybody is moving and doing their business as usual so for the time being I think people are expecting good news from the Togolese authorities. Everybody is quiet and we are waiting."

However, opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said that Mr. Gnassingbe could not just hold elections, he had to leave the presidency.

He said that any elections held under Mr. Gnassingbe would not be free and fair. Mr. Fabre wants the former parliamentary speaker to take over the presidency and organize elections within 60 days as was mandated in the constitution at the time of Mr. Eyadema's death.

Despite the violence during pro-democracy protests, the opposition is planning more demonstrations. A funeral for one of four people killed during clashes with the security forces was held at a cemetery in an opposition stronghold of Lome Thursday.

Kozie Dadzie's family say he was shot dead by paramilitary commandos when he tried to move a barricade erected by protesters demanding elections. Togo's interior ministry has said the four protesters who died were killed when security forces acted in self-defense.

Some university teachers have also started protesting Mr. Gnassingbe's rise to power by refusing to teach classes.

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