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Togo Announces New Government

  • Joe Bavier

Faure Gnassingbe (Feb. 2005 file photo)
Togo's prime minister has announced the country's new cabinet. Despite pressure from the international community to form a government that would include the opposition, most key posts have gone to supporters of new President Faure Gnassingbe.

The new government announced by Togo's newly appointed Prime Minister Edem Kodjo late Monday will be made up of 30 ministers, 22 of whom are new.

Members of the international community, including the West African political bloc, ECOWAS, had been pushing for a government of unity to end months of violence and turmoil following the death of late longtime-leader Gnassingbe Eyadema in February.

At least some of the new postings went to members of moderate opposition parties. But the leader of Togo's main opposition party, Gilchrist Olympio, says that is not enough.

"Nobody from our coalition, I mean serious opposition people, form part of that government," he said. "So the problem of national reconciliation, the problem of the legitimacy of the current regime is still very much an open question."

The son of the late President Eyadema, Faure Gnassingbe was briefly installed to the presidency by Togo's military upon the death of his father earlier this year. He was later forced to step down and call elections under pressure from the international community.

Mr. Gnassingbe won the presidency in April polls. But the opposition led by Mr. Olympio, the son of Togo's first independence president, refused to recognize the vote, citing, what it called, massive fraud. Mr. Olympio says, despite the appointment of the new government, for him, nothing has changed.

"We are opposed to the government," he said. "We are opposed to the regime. We are going to fight for democracy and legitimacy. We are going to fight for proper elections. It will go on and on. We have been at it for 40 years, so a year or two more does not make much of a difference to us."

West Africa political analyst Olly Owen says, despite the appointment of some opposition ministers, most of the power will likely remain in the hands of close allies of Mr. Gnassingbe.

"If you look at the jobs that really matter in that government, the security jobs," he said. "Then you see Kpatcha Gnassingbe in the defense ministry, which is the president's own brother, which shows who he really bases his power upon."

A spokesman for President Gnassingbe, Pascal Bodjona, denies any appointments were made to boost the president's position.

"Sometimes if you have people who are competent, you cannot put them down because of their friendship, because they are close to you, or because they were the ministers of your brother," he said.

Mr. Bodjona says, he thinks Togo, which had its foreign aide from Europe suspended due to democratic deficiencies several years ago, has now done everything that has been asked of it.

"I think the international community does not have any reason now to refuse to help Togo on its way to reconcile the country, and to put the country on the path to democracy," he said.

Thousands of people from traditional opposition strongholds are now living in neighboring Benin and Ghana after fleeing Togo following Faure Gnassingbe's election victory.

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