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AU Mission Arrives in Togo for Elections

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Ricci Shryock

With Togo elections set for March 4, the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo recently landed in the West African country as head of the African Union's mission to monitor the vote.

The most recent presidential election in Togo resulted in violence that left hundreds dead and caused tens of thousands to flee to neighboring countries. That 2005 election lead to the election of Faure Gnassingbe, son of the deceased President Gnassingbe Eyadema. It was highly contested, so the AU observers have gathered a diverse team to oversee that these elections are fair said Mr. Obasanjo.

"The AU has put together what I will call a very serious team of over 40 of us ranging from former presidents to former chairmen of electoral commissions to members of electoral commissions to party leaders, those candidates who have competed in elections before," said Obasanjo.

There are seven candidates in Thursday's race, including Gnassingbe, who has just finished his first term. Missions from the European Union and the 15-member Economic Community of West African States are also on the ground in Togo to help ensure fair elections. Mr. Obasanjo expressed confidence his group could reach that goal with the diversity of its members.

"It's quite a mixed number and a good variety, so we have a lot of experience within the members put together at AU to be able to learn from our different experiences in the past and bring those experiences to bear on our work here in Togo," he added.

One opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, told Voice of America that elections in his country have never been free and fair, but his party, the Union of Forces for Change, was hopeful this time around.

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