AFRICA/TOGO - Passport returned to Togo Opposition leader thanks to mediation by S. Egidio Community

Thursday, 29 July 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - The Rome based S. Egidio Community which has often mediated in difficult situations in Africa and elsewhere in the world has achieved another success. Yesterday Wednesday 28 July at the Sant’Egidio offices in Rome, Gilchrist Olympio, leader of the main Opposition Party in Togo UFC (Union des Forces du Changement) received his passport of which he had been deprived for several years. Present for the occasion ambassadors of various countries of the European Union and Africa and the United States.
The return of Mr Olympio’s passport was one of the Opposition’s conditions to resume dialogue with the government of Cameroon. A S. Egidio statement sent to Fides explained: “President Gnassingbe Eyadema agreed to return the passport as a result of patient mediation on the part of the S. Egidio Community over several months. This is a first highly significant step in the path to reconciliation”.
On June 1 this year Eyadema won presidential elections (see Fides 3 and 5 June 2004). The results were contested by the Opposition on the grounds of fraud. The main opposition candidate Gilchrist Olympio was excluded from the election because the National Independent Electoral Commission said he failed to present a certificate of residence and a recent tax statement. According to Togo’s Constitution candidates for presidency must have been resident in the country for at least 12 months before the election and have a fixed income in the country. Mr Olympio, long years in exile and returned to Cameroon on 27 April this year only to be expelled again.
“Talks between Mr Olympio and S. Egidio continue in view of a new and fruitful dialogue with this West African country” the statement reads. “We hope to facilitate a peaceful solution to the crisis and support efforts on the part of the international community, the European Union in particular to re-establish normal relations with Togo”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 29/7//2004 righe 32 parole 366)