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Togo's Opposition Rejects New Prime Minister

  • Nico Colombant

Togo's opposition has rejected the naming of a new prime minister, saying it does nothing to support reconciliation after months of violence and turmoil following the February death of the late, long-time leader, Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The announcement late Wednesday that former Prime Minister Edem Kodjo would return to the post, surprised the coalition of opposition parties.

The head of that coalition, Yawovi Agboyibo, says it could worsen the situation, which has already left hundreds dead, and forced tens-of-thousands to flee to neighboring countries, amid a security crackdown in opposition areas.

Mr. Agboyibo says the opposition was hoping to at least get the post of prime minister to be able to mend Togo.

Faure Gnassingbe (Feb. 2005 file photo)
An opposition demand to give the prime minister more power was rejected Tuesday by the team of controversially-elected President Faure Gnassingbe, the son of the late ruler, and immediately followed up by the naming of Mr. Kodjo.

The head of the opposition coalition, Mr. Agboyibo, says he thought a deal had been reached to have negotiations to set up a unity government, but, now that they had just started, Mr. Gnassingbe reacted by going his own way.

Upon receiving the appointment, Mr. Kodjo said he would work toward reconciliation. He was prime minister from 1994 to 1996, when there was also a crisis, following opposition clashes with the army.

He also served as secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the current 53-member African Union.

The third-place finisher in the disputed April election, Nicolas Lawson, says he's been very disappointed by the mediation of African leaders, and he believes they will back Mr. Kodjo's nomination.

"He's a man supported by some heads of state in Africa," he said. "When they are talking about the government of reconciliation or union, [that] was just to fool the international community and to disgrace the opposition. But, it was clear that Mr. Edem Kodjo was the one who has the support of these heads of state. This cannot give any confidence to the Togolese, so it's just a situation, which is going to bring us more trouble."

Mr. Lawson is also disappointed that African Union chairman Olusegun Obasanjo has so far rejected the naming of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's former leader, as a special mediator to the Togolese crisis by the African Union commission.

Mr. Obasanjo was apparently furious that he was not consulted, but Mr. Lawson has not been impressed by the Nigerian leader's own mediation efforts.

"What does he mean, he thinks that he can dictate to our people what he wants? He cannot solve his own problem," he said. "We need somebody who is free to come here and sit here for one day, two days, three days and talk with us, and we will find a solution."

The U.S. government had also called for the creation of a government of national unity, following elections, which it said had serious issues with transparency.

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