Togo police break up vote protest

Riot police in Togo have fired tear gas to break up an opposition march protesting against the result of last week’s presidential election.

The poll handed President Faure Gnassingbe a second term in office, but opposition parties on Tuesday say the election was a fraudulent.

Authorities had banned the march before it began.

But as protesters gathered the Togolese capital’s working-class Be district, police set up roadblocks around the headquarters of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) - headed by main opposition candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre.

Only a few hundred youths turned up to the protest on Tuesday as some 6,000 gendarmes and police fanned out across Lome.

Traffic disrupted

Fabre, the country’s opposition leader, who was stranded outside his party headquarters for more than an hour, claimed that security forces were provoking his supporters.

“They are trying to provoke our young people, and then they are going to throw grenades at them. You see?

“This is what they have been doing for the past three days,” Fabre said, before the standoff with police came to an end.

Colonel Damehane Yark, a spokesman for a special election commando unit, said the roads leading to the party’s office were being blocked to prevent opposition supporters from marching and disrupting traffic on the main boulevards.

An opposition demonstration had blocked the main road on Sunday, before being broken up when security forces fired tear gas.

Election dispute

The ratcheting up of tensions is being closely watched as after Togo’s presidential election in 2005 hundreds of people were killed in post-election violence, though elections two years later were peaceful.

Fabre has refused to recognise his defeat and vowed his supporters would take to the streets following the election results.

Togo’s election commission said Fabre had won only about 34 per cent of the vote, while Gnassingbe had won 1.2 million of the two million votes cast, or over 60 per cent.

Fabre announced his party had proof the ruling party rigged the election in several ways, including intimidating opposition supporters and buying off other voters and vowed to present evidence in court.

But international observers said the poll had gone smoothly, thought the European Union’s observation mission did say there was evidence the ruling party may have tried to buy off voters by handing out rice to the poor.

The EU report did not mention evidence of ballot stuffing or vote rigging, as alleged by the opposition.

Gnassingbe, first took the presidency in 2002, after 38 years of authoritarian rule under Gnassingbe Eyadema, his father.

[original]

spotted by RS

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