Togo condemns pre-poll violence

Togo's government has described clashes ahead of next weekend's presidential elections as deliberate provocation by the opposition.

    The West African country will elect a new president on 24 April

    Interior Minister Akila Esso Boko said about 50 people were injured in weekend fighting, including members of the security forces.
     
    Communications Minister Pitang Tchalla said earlier that "several people" had been hurt in scuffles between members of the ruling Togolese People's Rally (RPT) and the opposition, but said the iinterior ministry had reported no deaths on either side.
      
    Vehicles belonging to security forces have been damaged, according to the interior ministry, which said demonstrators had carried hunting rifles, knives, nail-studded clubs, stones and sticks. 

    Rising tensions
      
    Violence and tension in the small west African country have mounted since the death on 5 February of head of state Gnassingbe Eyadema, an autocratic ruler who had been in power since 1967.

    Eyadema died in early February,
    sparking political crisis in Togo


      
    Eyadema was considered by his domestic opposition as an electoral cheat, but still recognised as the doyen of African presidents.
      
    The army and the ruling party moved swiftly to have one of his sons, financier Faure Gnassingbe, made president by changing the constitution, but backed down weeks later under international pressure and opened the way to Sunday's polls.
      
    A human rights group, close to the government, has said that when serious clashes broke out on Saturday between supporters of rival political parties, six RPT supporters were killed and about 100 injured, basing the toll on reports from health centres. 

    Opposition claim
      
    The coordinator of the main opposition coalition, Yawovi Agboyibo, said one activist on their side was killed and 55 wounded in the violence.
      
    Tchalla, who is also government spokesman, on Monday blamed the opposition - which largely contends 24 April is far too early a date to organise a fair poll - for the weekend violence.
      
    "They were deliberate acts of provocation that coalition leaders should openly condemn if they don't want to give credence to the notion of a plot," Tchalla said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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