Monday, July 10, 2006

International Development: Togo moving closer towards peace

Togo refugees wait to cross the border into Benin in 2005

In a step aimed at ending years of political hostilities, most of Togo's feuding politicians have agreed on the general lines of a framework for holding free and fair elections.

After several months of talks to shore up political dialogue in the divided country, seven of the nine groups taking part signed off on a deal late Thursday that aims to steer Togo onto a peaceful path to elections expected at the end of next year.

Togo's "national dialogue" is one of 22 pledges made by Togo in 2004 to the European Union in order that Brussels restore aid that was cut off in 1993 due to concerns over human rights and democracy.

But political tensions deepened last year, sending 40,000 people streaming across Togo's borders seeking refuge during election violence. The presidential polls, which the opposition said were rigged, saw Faure Gnassingbe take on his late father Gnassingbe Eyadema's mantle of 38 years.

Gnassingbe's ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) was one of the nine signatories of the deal Thursday. But the agreement was snubbed by the leading opposition group, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), as well as by the Democratic Convention of African People (CDPA).

"This document is not an agreement and does not meet our expectations," UFC leader Jean-Pierre Fabre told IRIN.

Fabre said the deal fudged continuing disagreements, setting up committees to clear up existing problems rather than tackling them head on. Notably there was no agreement on the forthcoming electoral system, he said. Another issue in point was the call for a new enquiry into impunity over alleged acts of political violence.

The document calls for the creation of a committee of inquiry into political violence perpetrated since 1958, whereas the UFC and CDPA want punitive action following last year's political violence in which hundreds died, according to the conclusions of several independent investigations.

In other points, the document calls for the establishment of a 19-member Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), made up of five members from the presidential coalition, two each from the five opposition parties, two from civil society and two from government.

The deal also calls for Togo's electoral rolls to be revised and for voters to be issued with counterfeit-proof electoral cards carrying ID photos.

The deal opens the way for the formation of a new, more politically diverse cabinet.

Reproduced with the kind permission of IRIN
IRIN 2006
Photo: Copyright
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