French troops on alert after Togo chief’s death

6th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 6 (AFP) - France has placed its troops in the west African region on alert following the death of Togolese president Gnassingbe Eyadema, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Sunday.

PARIS, Feb 6 (AFP) - France has placed its troops in the west African region on alert following the death of Togolese president Gnassingbe Eyadema, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Sunday.

"We have put our troops on alert in case a need arises," she told Europe 1 radio, adding that the situation was currently calm in the west African state, where some 2,500 French citizens reside.

Alliot-Marie also made it clear that "the days of coups in Africa are over."

French President Jacques Chirac Sunday urged a return to constitutional order in Togo after authorities elsewhere in the continent described as a coup d'etat the way the president's son had been put straight into power following his death.

Eyadema died Saturday after ruling the country for nearly four decades after independence from France. The military immediately installed his son Faure Gnassingbe, sparking criticism from other west African states and the European Union.

The Togo constitution must be respected, Alliot-Marie insisted, recalling that it foresaw elections within two months.

"These must take place," the French minister stressed.

She also noted that under Togo's constitution the speaker of the country's National Assembly must take over as interim head of state.

It was reported from Lome late Sunday that deputies in the National Assembly had voted to fire the speaker during a special session.

France has troops stationed in Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

"We hope wisdom will prevail and that things will return to normal," Alliot-Marie said. "Things are calm at the moment in Lome, there's no particular threat. We are simply being vigilant."

Alliot-Marie said troops had been put on alert who were stationed in the vicinity of Togo and "who might need to intervene to protect our fellow-citizens."

France sent troops into Ivory Coast after brokering a peace deal in 2003 to end a civil war that broke out the year before following a failed uprising. French troops played a key role in helping protect its citizens last year during a rampage in Abidjan against French nationals.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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