19.03.2005 Togo

Togolese Opposition Leader Returns from Exile

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Aflao, (V/R) March. 19, GNA- The Togolese Opposition Leader, Mr Gilchrist Olympio, on Saturday returned home to Lome the Togolese capital after nearly one- and-half years in exile.

Hundreds of opposition party supporters, clad in party colours and flaunting various paraphernalia gave him a hero's welcome at the Togo side of the border in Lome when he crossed over from Aflao.

Mr, Olympio arrived at Aflao by road from Accra at about 1000 hours Saturday morning and went through exit and entry formalities at the Ghana and Togo sides of the border without a hitch.

The Togolese border authorities closed their side of the border to pedestrians briefly to allow Mr Olympio and his entourage smooth passage.

A similar entry of Mr. Olympio ahead of the 2003 presidential elections in Togo, which the late Gnassingbe Eyadema won, created a scene at both the Ghana and Togolese sides when the Togolese closed their side of the frontier, holding up Mr. Olympio for hours. The delay at that time, which left many travellers and traders stranded at both sides for hours, was said to be as a result of the expired Togolese travelling document Mr Olympio was carrying.

Mr. Olympio, leader of the opposition UFC Party was expected to address a rally of supporters of the six-party opposition coalition later in the day in Lome.

Mr. Olympio cannot contest in the coming April 2005 presidential elections due to a clause in the Togolese constitution which required candidates to be resident in the country at least, a year before the elections.

His visit was to galvanise support for the opposition sole candidate, Bob Akitani, against Faure Gnassingbe, the ruling RPT candidate.

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