Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Violence in Togo after Gnassingbé II proclaimed winner

Faure Gnassingbé, son of the late Togolese dictator Gnassingbé Eyadema, has been proclaimed the winner of Sunday's presidential election. Gnassingbé II, who was briefly installed as head of state by the military before massive regional and international pressure forced him to step down, allegedly received over 60% of the vote while opposition candidate Bob Akitani was credited with just over 38%. The announcement was immediately challenged by the opposition and provoked violence.

Minutes after the television announcement, an IRIN correspondent saw crowds of angry youths spill onto the streets in some areas of the capital Lome waving machetes and hurling stones, reported the UN's news service. Barricades were thrown up across major arteries and a heavy pall of black smoke hung over the city as protesters set fire to tyres.

Whiel the announced results did not include polling stations where ballot boxes had been destroyed, Gnassingbé II's margin of victory according to official figures was so large that the result is not expected to change, even if court challenges are successful.

The BBC reports that The main opposition party has called on Togolese people to "resist" the government and that Gnassingbé II denied vote-rigging and called on the opposition to join a government of national unity.

Update: Opposition candidate Akitani has declared himself president at a press conference. "We must fight with our lives if necessary," he said, complaining that the vote had been rigged in favor of the son of the late dictator Gnassingbé Eyadema. Representatives of the opposition have been collating the data from their agents who were at the polling stations, and says these prove Mr Akitani won all the most populous regions of the country. The BBC World Service reported that private radio stations in Togo have been taken off the air, as has Radio France Internationale's relay in the country; though the BBC's own signal remains on the air.


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