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19.02.2005 Togo

Massive opposition protest in Lome, Togo

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Lome (Togo), Feb. 19, GNA - Togolese opposition groups said they would continue to protest until Faure Gnassingbe totally steps down as president of Togo.

They said the political problem now is not who would organize elections following the death of president Gnassingbe Eyadema, but a scrupulous respect for the country's constitutional requirements. Taking his turn to address a massive crowd of supporters and stalwarts of six opposition parties at Fleau-Jardin in Lome on Saturday, Lawyer Yaovi Agboyibo, a prominent member of the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) who said this and asked Togolese not to allow any group of people have sway over their democratic freedoms.

He said they will not accept Faure even for the sixty-day interim period ahead of elections, explaining that, his illegal ascension to the thrown must be set aside for the legal process to take over. There was power outage in the area as soon as the leadership of the parties began addressing the protesters, of which some even mimicked the postures of the deceased leader.

Other opposition leaders present were Professor Leopold Gnininvi of CDPA, Antoine Foli, UDS, Lawyer Abi Tchessa of PSR, Emmanuel Akakpovi Akitani-Bob of UFC and A. Gogue of Addi of the UFC.

Similar opposition protests were said to ongoing in Aneho in further south and Sekode and Sinkanse in the north. The crowd of protesters, estimated to be between 80-90 thousands, held tree branches and placards some of which read "Chirac, you must stop supporting Eyadema's agenda" and "Togo is not Eyadema's maize farm", and went through some streets amidst tight security presence.

Just few commercial cars and motorbikes could be seen in the streets as shops also remained closed in the capital including the Central Asigame Market and Be, where the peaceful demonstration that lasted for hours, started.

The security, armed to the teeth in addition to tear gas canisters, parading the entire capital, prevented the protesters who sang and danced, from entering some routes in the capital, prompting the organizers to change their itinerary.

Agboyibo said Faure and his council of advisors must not be allowed to disobey the constitution, which requires the speaker of the country's parliament to rule sixty interim days in the absence of the President, death or incapacitation.

Professor Akitani-Bob announced the itinerary of the opposition to include protests on Saturdays, Church services on Sundays and rallies on other days weekly until Faure steps down, adding their constitutional demands are irreversible.

Earlier, a communiqu=E9 of Togo's Interior Minister, Squadron Leader Akila Esso Bokor, monitored over the state television and radio announced the lifting of the ban on demonstrations and street marches. Faure Gnassingbe, as signs of him bowing to ECOWAS demands to step down, made a delayed television and radio statement late Friday, that he will remain in power for only the sixty interim days.