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In Togo, the Opposition Remains "Cautiously Optimistic"

Togo’s veteran opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio says he is cautiously optimistic about a recent agreement between Togo’s government and six political parties. The agreement, signed a week ago, calls for the creation of a transitional government to include opposition parties and the creation of an independent electoral commission. Olympio is the son of Togo’s first democratically elected president, Sylvanus Olympio, who was assassinated in 1963. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty about the new agreement.

“There are a lot of things which are in the agreement which are encouraging. But we think we need to do a lot of more detailed work because a lot of the problems that beset out current government have been pushed back to an entity yet to be established – that is the national union government. So we do not know up till now how these problems are going to be treated. But to answer your question very directly, yes we have taken the first step in the right direction,” he said.

Olympio is skeptical about the agreement’s implementation.

“The sweetness of the pudding is in the eating. So we will see how it’s going to be. But don’t forget we have been under a dictatorship for over 40 years…With Mr. Faure in charge, we do not know yet. So we will see how things develop in the next weeks or months. But we are prepared to cooperate to make sure that things happen,” he noted.

Olympio says his party, the Union of Forces for Change, will join the government on the condition it respect the plans set out in the agreement.

“So yes, to answer your question, we shall go in. We shall be very careful, we shall be very serious, and we shall call upon the international community, especially the West African community, ECOWAS and President [Blaise] Compaore [of Burkina Faso] and the European Community to make sure that the road map is respected,” he said.

The opposition leader has been living in exile in Paris. He says he hopes to return to Africa by the end of the week and then to Togo where he wants to renovate his family home that has been abandoned for 43 years.

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