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Togo Calm as Gnassingbe Takes Over

  • Nico Colombant

Faure Gnassingbe (Feb. 2005 file photo)
Togo's new President Faure Gnassingbe, the son of the country's late leader, is to be sworn in Wednesday, after being declared the winner in elections marred by fraud and street violence. The army has been preventing renewed rioting.

Convoys of jeeps with soldiers aiming their weapons raced through opposition strongholds in Lome Wednesday, scaring away opposition militants.

Tuesday's proclamation that Mr. Gnassingbe had won the election did not cause violence, unlike the announcement of provisional results last week, which led to clashes in which dozens were killed and tens of thousands fled.

One youth in the district of Be, Felix Azowanou, said he used to support the opposition, but that he was now in favor of Mr. Gnassingbe because he said he was tired of the army crackdown.

"The date of the proclamation of the results, I think that there would be something dangerous, but nothing happened so we are just expecting by the grace of God," he said.

He said many of the youths who had been throwing rocks and setting up barricades last week had now fled, some of them to nearby Benin and Ghana, others back to their home villages.

In the Dekon area of the capital, a shopkeeper, Chief Oko, said Lome was turning into a ghost town.

"There's nobody here, everybody is going [back] to the village," he said. "The business is slow, it's not moving fine. Many people have gone to the village, there's nothing going around anywhere, but let's see whether things will change."

A computer salesman from Nigeria, Izuchukwu Mbanugo, appealed for the opposition to join a government of national unity.

"The two parties are not on good terms but I want the two parties to be on good terms so that there won't be problems again in Togo so that we the foreigners we can now be opening our shops so that there won't be problems again. We are just praying for peace and unity to reign in this country," he said.

But the opposition says it has no intention of joining a unity government, saying it doesn't want to be a party to what it calls a one-family fraudulent dictatorship.

Mr. Gnassingbe's father, who staged two coups in the 1960s, ruled 38 years until his death in February. The late Gnassingbe Eyadema was initially replaced by his son with the backing of the military. He then stepped down to run as the ruling party candidate in the April 24 election.

The United States and African groupings have said there were problems with the vote, but urged the opposition to join a unity government.

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