AFRICA/TOGO - Information freeze in Togo: main Catholic Radio Maria forced to stop broadcasts

Friday, 29 April 2005

Lome (Fides Service)- “Even Radio Maria, the country’s main Catholic radio station, has been told to suspend its programmes” local Church sources said describing the information freeze imposed by the army in Togo. “All independent means of information have been shut down even access to the Internet” the sources say. “The situation is tense. At least 30 people were killed in Lome alone in clashes between the police and protesters over the last few days and dozens more are reported dead in various parts of the country” the sources told Fides. Army troops have surrounded the home of Jean Pierre Fabre general secretary of the main opposition party Union of Forces for Change and this morning a gang of armed men set fire to the Goethe Institute in Lome.
The crisis is becoming more serious and could degenerate into ethnic conflict. “For the moment protests are political. The people want change and the advent of democracy. But we cannot exclude that if the violence continues, some could blow on the embers of ethnic divisions and start a conflict of ample proportions” the sources said.
“Popular malcontent is even reflected among the army troops. Soldiers voted a few days earlier than civilians so they could keep order during the elections. The army vote was served as a test with a surprising result: 86% against the candidate of the regime Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma” the sources told Fides. “This result can be explained by the fact that troops were not happy to see high ranking army positions go only to men of the same ethnic group as the late President Gnassingbé Eyadéma”.
“The test was a warning bell for the regime which contrary to the opinion of former interior minister was forced to call elections” the sources concluded.
Yesterday 28 April the Opposition coalition in Togo called for the presidential election held last Sunday to be annulled on the grounds that there was widespread fraud and thousands of false ballots. On 26 April the national electoral commission announced that the government candidate Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma had won with 60% of the votes and that the Opposition candidate Emmanuel Akitani Bob had obtained 38% of the votes. However Akitani immediately declared himself president of Togo. The election results have still to be certified by the Constitutional Court I. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 29/12/2005 righe 36 parole 450)