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Lome Remains Tense Wednesday


Opposition supporters in Togo have clashed with security forces for a second day over the results of the country’s bitterly disputed presidential election. At least a dozen people have been reported killed and more than 100 wounded.

The violence erupted yesterday, just moments after the election commission announced that the winner of Sunday’s vote was Faure Gnassingbe, son of the late long-time leader Gnassingbe Eyadema. The commission said Mr. Gnassingbe took about 60 percent of the vote, while his main challenger, Emmanuel Akitani-Bob, took 38 percent. Late yesterday Mr. Gnassingbe appealed for calm -- and urged the opposition to join him in a new government.

VOA West Africa correspondent Nico Colombant, who’s in Lome, told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that the situation in the capital remains tense and even "eerie": “You see people gathered around makeshift bus stations trying to find some transportation back to their home villages…or others are trying to go to Ghana, which is very close by. And (still) others are walking away from Lome with just their belongings with them.”

Mr. Colombant says there’s a kind of “low-level warfare” between opposition militants and the government. He says opposition militants have cordoned off their neighborhoods with overturned trucks, trees, and bricks. They say they are trying to protect neighborhoods from pro-government militias and the army.

Correspondent Nico Colombant says opposition militants are also threatening French nationals and Western reporters.

“ French nationals’ homes are being ransacked,” he says. “The opposition here does not like the French or the international community, because they believe they propped up the [government of the late president (Gnassingbe Eyadema) for 40 years and now that his son has won very contested elections…they say once again the international community is letting this happen and that is why they are targeting foreigners.“ He says some opposition members armed with axes, clubs, and gas canisters threaten to burn cars carrying white journalists. In one instance, he says a French civilian was stuck in his car for six hours before he was able to flee for his life.

Talks between the opposition and government are not certain. VOA correspondent Nico Colombant says exiled opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, who was not able to run in the election, says the likelihood of a national unity government has nearly vanished. He wants to reshape Togo’s constitution because, he says, even if there were a government of national unity, the current constitution would not give him very much power. He also says new and more transparent elections should be arranged.

Mr. Colombant says the government said today that three soldiers and three civilians have been killed in violence since Sunday’s elections.