News and Information

Togo leader sworn in amid protest
February 7, 2005

Faure Gnassingbe vowed to "to preserve the integrity of the nation"

Togo's new President Faure Gnassingbe has been sworn in despite international protests at his appointment.

Parliamentary deputies changed the constitution to allow Mr Faure to complete his father's term, after Gnassingbe Eyadema died on Saturday.

Togo's army was criticised for what the African Union called a "military coup".

The chairman of the West African community, Mamadou Tandja, told the BBC the events brought "shame to Africa".

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who heads the African Union (AU), said the absence of a democratic transition in Togo was a threat to peace.

The US, UN, EU and former ruler France have also called for respect for the constitution. Western diplomats in Lome boycotted the ceremony.

"The United States urges all Togolese to respect strictly the constitutional process of Togo, which will lead to elections for a new president," the State Department said in a statement.

Constitutional changes

Mr Gnassingbe, 39, took his oath of office in front of judges and MPs at the presidential palace in the capital, Lome.

"I vow to preserve the integrity of the nation and to always be a faithful and loyal servant of the people," he said.

Will 'coup' be accepted?

A BBC correspondent in Lome said a group of students was prevented from protesting at the ceremony and broken up by the police. Demonstrations have been banned for two months.

Mr Faure was chosen by the military late on Saturday.

On Sunday, deputies dismissed the parliament's speaker, who, under the constitution, should have assumed power after President Eyadema's death.

MPs also passed a change to the constitution so that there is now no legal requirement to hold elections in Togo within 60 days of a leader's death.

The new article states that the president of the national assembly succeeds the president and can stay in office until the end of the previous president's mandate.

Mr Faure was unanimously voted head of the national assembly.

President Eyadema was elected for a five-year term in June 2003, which means his son can now rule until June 2008.

Global outcry

World figures have denounced Togo's army for its role in the transition of power.

France put its troops in West African countries on alert while the EU warned ties with Togo could suffer.

The exiled Togo opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, has called for a presidential election to be held at the same time as a general election due this year.

Gnassingbe Eyadema rose to power in a military coup

Togo's communications minister defended the army's actions.

Pitang Tchalla said the military had installed the new president and closed the borders to avoid a power vacuum. The borders have now reopened.

Eyadema, 69, Africa's longest-serving ruler, died while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad - reportedly from a heart attack.

After seizing power 38 years ago, he dissolved all political parties and governed unchallenged for more than two decades.

He legalised political parties in 1991, as a result of popular pressure, and won three elections.

But accusations of political repression and electoral fraud continued.


What do you think of the current situation in Togo? Are you in Togo at the moment? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received.

I'm currently in Lome but I am from Nigeria. The town "seems" calm but one gets the feeling that it is only superficial. There's tension and fear in the air. I want to return to my country but I cannot as the borders are still closed.
Janada Vandu, Lome, Togo

It's unfortunate that Togo lost one of its illustrious sons and statesmen but not withstanding, Eyadema's demise should usher in a new leaf in the political system and terrain of Togo. It is absurd on the part of the Togolese military to begin, at this time, to manipulate the constitution against the supposed campaign for democratic good governance put forward by the AU. I make bold to say the that the current development in Togo would serve as a litmus test on the validity of the African body.
Shamah Shaga, Wamba, Nasarawa state Nigeria

The events in Togo are unfortunate and work retrogressively against democracy which we as a continent are championing. These events do not in anyway show any regard for the rule of law, or indeed respect for constitutions across the continent.
Venansio, Livingstone, Zambia

I lived in Togo a few years ago and learnt much about the so-called 'democracy' there. The only reason president Eyadema stayed in power for as long as he did was due to fear. No-one could say a word against him for fear of repercussions from the military. Soldiers were everywhere and happily took bribes from anyone and everyone in the absence of decent pay from the government. Lome is a wonderful city, but clearly was a lot more beautiful and prosperous 20 years ago before Eyadema isolated his nation through his political aspirations... and who suffered? The ordinary citizens.
Olivia, UK

I spent this summer in Togo and initially I thought the death of the previous president could have been a positive thing for the people of Togo considering Eyadema's tainted human rights and poor democratic records. However I'm shocked by the audacity of the army that they can simply install the late presidents son without an electoral mandate. It's wrong, the country looks like a personal possession of the Eyadema family and the army, the international community isn't and should not stand for this.
Jonathan Chatterton, Leeds, UK

The current situation in Togo is just unacceptable not only because the son has succeeded the father but because it's a silent coup d'etat. The fact the parliament speaker was out of the country does not mean his post was vacant and that does not give to the army the right to interfere into the job of politicians. Why have they then decided to replace the parliament speaker and immediately changed the constitution? Unfortunately the international community will only condemn and later legalise the person who is now the president of Togo.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

I am of Senegalese origin and very sad to see how one of our fellow African countries is being manipulated by politicians. The quick vote of this new constitution is a complete farce. There is nothing democratic in it.
Philippe Nelson, Southampton, UK

I arrived in Lome on Friday for a weekend trip - the atmosphere here is a little tense and most shops have stopped trading. Following reported protests at the university the city seems on edge with an increased military presence on the ground and in the air. There is no British embassy so the British people here are concerned. Politically I am most dissatisfied with the unconstitutional change of power, state media seems to be rather indifferent however there is obvious pockets of dissent.
Philip Waters, Lome Togo!

I think the fact that there has not been any bloodshed during this transition is a sign of things to come. Let the man rule in place of his father. He is the only one that can guarantee stability in the country.
Marc, Lome

The situation has tightened, protestors were beaten up in some parts of the town, some roads, like the "marina" ware barricaded by the military. Most shops closed and people hurried home. Pupils were set free from school at 10 am. Many people are depressed and afraid in a way I have never seen them before.
Line Gottke, Lome, Togo

The current happenings in Togo is simply a military coup and the EU, UN and AU should see it and treat it as such.
Olusegun, Nigeria

France should stay out of this situation to prevent another Ivory Coast. African heads should take their responsibility - Togo is not a monarchy.
Togovi, Lome, Togo

I fully support the Togolese army for its swift move to avoid bloodshed by choosing younger Eyadema. All the best for him.
Abdul Jabbar, Nairobi, Kenya

Though I'm not in Togo at the moment I feel very sad for the turn of events in that country. When can true democracy be given the chance to thrive in Togo as well as some other African countries?
Tony, Ghana

This is blatantly abuse of power. This is a coup simple. Whatever the reason I think the leaders in Togo should learn to respect the rules that they themselves have made.
Dembo Kanteh, the Gambia


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