22.03.2005 Togo

Let's help Togo entrench democracy - Aliu urges France

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Accra, March 22, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Tuesday told the French Ambassador in Ghana that Ghana was playing a critical role within ECOWAS to support Togo to have peaceful and credible democratic elections and urged France to aid the process.

The Vice President, who said this when Mr Pierre Jacquemot, France's Ambassador to Ghana, called on him at the Castle, Osu, stressed that entrenching democracy in Togo, was a top priority of Ghana, which would offer all the requisite assistance to make that possible.

He commended France for its contribution towards peace and order in Togo and also in La C=F4te d'Ivoire.

Mr Jacquemot, who assumed duty about two months ago, was at the Castle as part of a familiarization visit aimed at identifying areas of cooperation towards deepening bilateral relations.

Vice President Mahama expressed contentment about the excellent relations between the two countries, saying apart from receiving support to improve many areas of development, the level of trade between the countries had grown for the benefit of each side.

He said: "When Ghana decided to adopt the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative, some countries were sceptical about the programme's success, but France backed us and further cancelled our debt of 127 million Euros, which was remarkable.

"You are also supporting us in many areas that would complement our Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme and indeed your help in the teaching and learning of French, building the capacity of the Police and the Military are wonderful."

Mr Jacquemot, who said he was encouraged by the friendliness and warmth of Ghanaians, said education, agriculture, health, energy, the road sector and other areas would continue to receive assistance from his government.

"France is very interested in supporting the Police because we find their role very crucial to the sustenance of democracy," he said. "We are also committed to improve cultural relations. Therefore, we will build the capacity of musicians, painters, artists and artistes." Additionally, Mr Jacquemot said, France would advocate for Ghana within the European Commission to ensure that it received its fair share of development assistance.

On Togo, the Ambassador said France's interest in that country was just like Ghana's and would, therefore, do its bit towards the democratic process.

"We share many points of view with Ghana, we are pro-democracy and we support the role of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)," he stressed. "We are hopeful that positive results would emerge."

Togo, which experienced a constitutional crisis following the death of its long-term President, Gnassingbe Eyadema, is scheduled to go to the polls in April in response to pressure from ECOWAS, the West-African sub-regional body, the African Union and some countries.

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