France keeps distance in Togo

28th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - France appeared Thursday to be letting events take their course in Togo, at the risk of being accused of perpetuating a dictatorial dynasty and endangering its own citizens in its former colony.

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - France appeared Thursday to be letting events take their course in Togo, at the risk of being accused of perpetuating a dictatorial dynasty and endangering its own citizens in its former colony.  

Opposition militants enraged at the declared victory of ruling party candidate Faure Gnassingbe, son of long-time ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, have sparked street battles with security forces in Lome and targetted French expatriates living there.  

They would not have forgotten Paris's fulsome tribute after the February 5 death of Eyadema, widely viewed as a dictator but praised by French President Jacques Chirac as "a friend of France" and "a personal friend."  

The episode is the latest embarrassment for Paris in its former west African possessions, where cosy relationships with autocratic rulers traditionally enabled it to wield influence and reap political and economic advantages.  

It follows upheaval in divided Ivory Coast, where supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo rioted against French peacekeeping forces and sent thousands of French residents fleeing the country after French troops acted to stop government troops attacking rebels holding the north of the country.  

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier declared Thursday that with respect to Togo, "Neither during this election, nor before, nor after and in the future will France interfere in Togolese affairs."  

"The future of Togo is in the hands of the Togolese," he added on state-run television. "It is up to the Togolese to find the path of dialogue and mutual respect to take this new step in their destiny."  

France has backed a national unity government in Togo, along with the United States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Faure Gnassingbe, but this has been rejected by opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, who lives in exile in Paris.  

Asked if Paris effectively approved Gnassingbe's victory, French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei took refuge Thursday in the fact that the result has not been officially ratified.  

"We are consulting with our European partners and we are in contact with the African Union and ECOWAS," he said.  

But both France and ECOWAS have stated that despite a number of problems the elections were by and large conducted satisfactorily, in contrast to the opposition view that they were marred by massive fraud.  

Former French junior minister Kofi Yamgnane, who also has Togolese nationality and briefly contemplated running against Gnassingbe, attacked the French stance.  

He said that after Eyadema's death, generals of Togo's army, mainstay of the Lome regime, had been received at Chirac's Elysee Palace and noted that many French expatriates attacked in this week's rioting had preferred to take refuge in the German embassy.  

Former Togolese interior minister Francois Esso Boko, who was sacked after breaking ranks and calling for the polls to be put off, is among them.  

France's left-wing Liberation daily reported Thursday that he had gone to the Germans after being refused asylum by France.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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