19 May 2005
African leaders have brought together Togo's political adversaries to end a crisis following deadly and flawed elections which gave victory to the son of the country's late leader.
The African Union and the West African grouping ECOWAS organized the one-day summit in Abuja, Nigeria, in an attempt to restore stability in Togo.
ECOWAS helped organize the April 24 election which followed the February death of 38-year ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema and which gave victory to his son Faure Gnassingbe.
But the results led to riots and an army crackdown in which western diplomats say more than 100 people were killed and tens of thousands fled to neighboring Benin and Ghana. A Togolese human rights group says more than 800 people were killed in southern Togo, the opposition stronghold.
ECOWAS spokeswoman Adrienne Diop says the grouping will work with Togo's rival political leaders to make sure the transition does not lead to more violence.
"In order to ensure participation of all Togolese into a process that will lay the foundation for a democratic and safer Togo, leaders have decided to call them to discuss with them the way forward and to see how each of them can contribute to the consolidation of their nation," she explained.
Several West and Central African leaders were present as well a United Nations official, president-elect Mr. Gnassingbe and the main opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio.
Mr. Olympio said first the killings must stop. He has also called for new elections. The April 24 poll was marred with massive fraud, including evidence of soldiers caught on television stealing ballot boxes from opposition strongholds when vote counting began.
The distant third place finisher in the election, Nicolas Lawson, boycotted the talks because he says ECOWAS only paid for his plane ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Abuja. He also says the problem with ECOWAS, which was previously funded in large part with money from the late Mr. Eyadema, lacks resources to do proper election monitoring, peacekeeping and organizing such talks.
"When you do not have the financial means you cannot play a good role," he noted. "In the past, it was the late president of Togo who used to finance them. I do not know where he was taking the money from, now he has disappeared and it is a big problem for these people even to pay a flight for us to go to Abuja, they cannot afford it and asking us to risk our life to go by road and when we reach there I do not know they have not given any document."
Other opposition leaders said they had decided to pay their own way, but once there, Mr. Lawson says he fears other heads of state will intimidate them to accept a proposal that goes against democracy.