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Election-Related Violence in Togo Continues, Results Awaited

  • Nico Colombant

A man piles dried palm leaves onto a burning roadblock in the Be Kpota area of Lome
Togo's opposition is awaiting results from Sunday's presidential election, amid street violence that has killed several people and injured dozens. Voters were asked to choose a successor to the late long-time president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, but the opposition alleges there was fraud in favor of his son, the ruling party candidate.

Dozens of angry youths erected burning barricades several kilometers outside Lome on the road to Benin, including Alex, who also wielded an axe.

"We are blocking the road, because we want our result," he said. "All the time in Togo here, if they do election, they want to wait two days, three days, one week before they give the results. Now, we want the results today, not tomorrow or Wednesday, today, today, we want the results."

Nearby, protesters waving clubs and chunks of cement gathered near the heavily guarded home of the local ruling party official. They accused him of trying to rig results.

The official, Richard Attiope, whose face was marked by bloody cuts, escaped for his life Sunday, when opposition supporters burned his car, alleging he was carrying fake ballots. He denied the charge, but said he was very scared.

"I think that today I can say that I am afraid about my life, because yesterday what happened is very, very serious," he said. "I am afraid, but I am asking myself, what is really happening in this country? And, I am saying that, if the opposition want to rule this country, it is not with the violence, and for me using violence is the proof that they will not win."

At the main opposition headquarters in Lome, activist Samuel is looking over his own poll numbers from opposition strongholds where his candidate, Emmanuel Akitani-Bob, seems to have finished way ahead of Faure Gnassingbe, the ruling party candidate and son of the late leader Gnassingbe Eyadema.

"I know that, if they got the real results, Bob will win, but maybe they will not allow it," he said. "Gnassingbe people will not allow that Bob should win. Maybe that will be trouble."

Police could be heard firing tear gas to disperse angry groups of opposition supporters moving around parts of the capital. In several areas, they also dug trenches and threatened to kill white foreigners, accusing the former colonial power, France, of backing authorities.

In contrast, in the north, which was the base of Mr. Eyadema's 38-year reign until his death in February, there were no reports of violence.

The current head of the African Union, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, convened Mr. Gnassingbe and the head of Mr. Akitani-Bob's party, Gilchrist Olympio, for urgent talks to help ease the post-election tension and violence.

The West African regional grouping, ECOWAS, helped organize and monitor the voting after forcing Faure Gnassingbe to step down when he initially took power following his father's death.

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