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13.01.2010 Togo

Faure Gnassingbe Declared Presidential Candidate In Togo

By Daily Guide
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Togo's ruling RPT party, the Togo Peoples Rally, today in Lomé endorsed the investiture of Faure Gnassingbé in absentia as its official candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections.

However, Foly Bazi Katare, a leading member of the ruling party who delegated to represent Faure Gnassingbe, accepted the nomination on his behalf.

The elections are due on the 28th of February 2010.

Esso Solitoki, Secretary General of the ruling party, extolled “the sterling qualities of President Faure Gnassingbé whose political vision, commitment to democracy, truth, justice and reconciliation deserves to be given another mandate”.

Thousands of singing party supporters listened with rapt attention as Esso Solitoki reeled off the litany of Faure Gnassingbe's economic achievements and transparency in governance which he said has led to the removal of 15 years of economic sanctions imposed by the European Union.

But many supporters left the 3000-capacity Palace of Congress in Lomé disappointed that the leader they had come to invest as their candidate was not present, raising more questions than answers.

The ruling RPT party was formed in the town of Kpalime in 1969 as Togo's former unique party. It has been in power over party 40 years.

46-year-old Faure Gnassingbé became leader of the ruling RPT party following the sudden death of his father, the late General Gnassingbé Eyadema in February 2005.

He subsequently became Head of State of Togo in disputed presidential elections marred by political violence, during which UN Commissioner for Human Rights fact-finding reports said 500 Togolese protesters were killed.

More than 10 other candidates, including a woman, University law Lecturer Madam Adjamagbo Johnson and Gilchrist Olympio of UFC Togo's largest opposition are contesting.

A rare political event in which two separate opposition and government supporters vied for prominence in the Lome capital has been overshadowed by the tragic events in Cabinda.

But the two events illustrated how the political barometer is shooting up in Togo with barely 50 days to go for the presidential elections.

It was like a show of political strength on Saturday as thousands of grim-faced opposition militants, led by the Union of Forces for Change UFC party of Gilchrist Olympio, stormed the major streets of Lomé to back up their demand for the second run-off voting system for Togo's presidential elections due on February 28, 2010, calling for a halt to the on-going voters registration exercise with the claim that the exercise was full of irregularities.

But over 15000 supporters of President Faure Gnassingbe replied with equal venom on the same day, calling on the opposition parties to put a stop to what they called “their delay tactics and to respect the Togo constitution which endorses the first round ballot system”.

The Togolese opposition parties fired their salvos on the streets of Lome chanting war songs and slogans in their agitation for the second run-off system of voting in the forthcoming presidential elections in Togo.

The thousands of militants carried placards some of which read 'Sans 2 tours, Pas d'election' to wit 'Without 2nd Round of voting, no elections' and 'Reprise de la revision de la liste electoral', translating 'Re-start the voters registration exercise'.

Secretary General of the UFC Youth Wing, Kossi Nikoué, angrily justified the opposition demand for a second run-off system.

“We have organized today's demonstration to claim a second round system of voting  because we need democracy and freedom of expression to be consolidated as well as an elected president for this country”, Kossi Nikoue said, adding “the ruling RPT party is a dictatorial party.

The 1992 constitution opted for 2nd round of voting but they changed it. This time, we want the 2nd round of voting system”.

When reminded that existing protocols of the West African Economic Community ECOWAS frown on the revision of constitutions of respective member states six months before elections, the UFC Youth Wing Secretary General stated, “This protocol can never work in Togo here. We know for sure that all ECOWAS member states are now holding second ballot system of voting.

“But in Togo they are still claiming for one round so this protocol can never work here they themselves know it for sure”.

As the opposition militant flexed their muscles against President Faure Gnassingbe , thousands of supporters of the Togolese Head of State replied with equal venom by holding a mammoth rally at the Lome stadium chanting slogans and praises and predicted a knock-out win for President Faure.

Hubert Atayo, a leading member of the collective of associations supporting the incumbent Head of State, expressed his view on the purpose of the pro-government rally appealing on the opposition parties to respect the Togo constitution.

 “The purpose of this protest march it is to denounce those who like to create trouble in order to compromise the ideology of the current government.

They are always looking for evil for the Togolese people. We must respect the Togo constitution so that we can hold transparent elections on the 28th of February that is all,” Hubert Atayo declared.

As the political shadow boxing continues, the Togo opposition parties  are stressing the need to halt the on-going voters registration exercise for two weeks so that the process can be started all over again in areas where electronic equipment have either broken down or malpractices have been reported. With the opposition demand for a second run-off hanging on the neck of the presidential elections like an albatross, it may require the rare negotiation skills of the Burkinabe leader Blaise Compaoré, the mediator, to work out an acceptable compromise when the opposition parties meet the Togo presidential delegation in Ouagadougou next week, before the volatile situation gets out of hand.

From Ebow Godwin, Lomé

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