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African Group Imposes Sanctions on Togo

The West African grouping, ECOWAS, has suspended Togo and imposed sanctions on the government of President Faure Gnassingbe, who was installed by the military after the death of his father and is refusing to step down.

The member states of ECOWAS are increasing pressure on Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe to step down. Member states have recalled their diplomats from the country, and the group is imposing an arms embargo on Togo and a travel ban on Togolese officials.

Although Mr. Gnassingbe said Friday that he would hold elections within 60 days, ECOWAS said in a statement, that is not enough.

The Togolese government has yet to formulate an official response to the news of sanctions. Information Minister Pitang Tchalla said there is a danger that Togo could 'fragment into pieces,' if Mr. Gnassingbe left the presidency.

A London-based Africa analyst, Olly Owen, said ECOWAS' actions can have consequences.

"They are far from impotent," said Olly Owen. "The kind of regional culture and the kind of outward facing nature of states in Africa is much more important than it is in, say, Europe. It is much harder for a regime to be insular there, and kind of survive in a day-to-day regional environment."

Togo's opposition is also not satisfied with Mr. Gnassingbe's promise to hold elections. An opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre, said the opposition would continue to protest what he called an illegal presidency.

Mr. Fabre told VOA that no one would vote, if elections were organized by Mr. Gnassingbe.

African and world leaders want the former speaker of parliament to take over the presidency and organize elections. Parliament hurriedly made Mr. Gnassingbe the new parliamentary speaker, after the sudden death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years.

The transfer of power was condemned as a coup. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament is to carry out the duties of the president until elections can be held.

France, Togo's former colonial power, gave its full support to ECOWAS' decisions, and called for a quick restoration of 'full constitutional legality.'

The State Department issued a statement backing ECOWAS' decision to impose sanctions, and said it was ending all military assistance to the country.