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Togo's Controversial President Resigns

  • Nico Colombant

Togo's military-appointed president, the son of the country's late, long-ruling leader, has resigned, after mounting international pressure. But he says he will run in presidential elections scheduled for mid-April.

In his speech broadcast on state media late Friday, Mr. Gnassingbe said he was stepping down to give all candidates an equal chance in upcoming elections. He also said this would ensure transparency.

Parliament hastily convened a special session to determine who would become its new assembly speaker, and to replace Mr. Gnassingbe as interim leader.

Following the abrupt death earlier this month of Gnassingbe Eyadema, parliament voted out its assembly speaker and voted in Mr. Gnassingbe, who had by then already been installed by the military.

Under the constitution, it is the assembly speaker who becomes president if the head of state dies in office.

But the coerced transfer of power from father to son sparked international condemnation, and Friday the African Union called for all African countries to impose diplomatic, arms and travel sanctions against Togolese officials.

In his speech, Mr. Gnassingbe says he shares the ideals of democracy, good governance and rule of law espoused by the African body.

He said he hoped the international community will help Togolese organize elections viewed as free and honest.

The Togolese opposition has said it doubts that under current circumstances and electoral rules, it will be able to compete. The main opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, whose father was killed in a coup led by Mr. Eyadema in 1963, has lived in exile following assassination attempts on his own life during the 1990s.

Current rules stipulate candidates must have lived in the country over the past year.