UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Military

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Friday 6 May 2005

TOGO: Diplomatic documents surface citing fraud in April poll

DAKAR, 6 May 2005 (IRIN) - In confidential reports that surfaced on Friday, western diplomats cite incidents of massive fraud in last month's disputed presidential polls in Togo, including allegations that there were almost a million phantom voters which swelled the ranks of those eligible to vote by a third.

The allegations were listed in four briefing reports written for European Union headquarters in Brussels in the week following the 24 April election. The papers were published in French on a Togolese opposition website: http://www.diastode.org. The reports were also quoted at length on Radio France Internationale.

IRIN obtained confirmation from European diplomatic sources of the authenticity of the documents, which were penned as urban violence erupted in the Togolese capital Lome and other cities following the initial announcement that Faure Gnassingbe would succeed his father as president of the small West African nation.

One report written 27 April in Lome underlined that the 150 foreign observers sent in by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) “were deployed at the last moment on Saturday 23 April and were assigned to observe the vote but not the count.”

“The ECOWAS mission did not involve two key steps: the revising of the electoral rolls and the count; operations during which there were many irregularities,” the briefing note said.

“Observation by diplomatic missions....on voting day highlighted the lack of reliability of the electoral rolls, an apparently widespread system of fake pro-Gnassingbe votes and numerous cases of the military snatching ballot-boxes ahead of the count,” the document said.

It noted that there were 900,000 phantom voters on Togo’s electoral register nationwide, which increased the roll-call by 34 percent. Half of those fictitious names were found in areas of Togo said to favour Gnassingbe’s ruling Rally for the Togolese People (RPT).

According to the document, the percentage of voter cards handed out in RPT strongholds was between 80 and 95 percent, while only 41 percent were distributed in the capital Lome, seen as a support base for the six-party opposition coalition that fielded Emmanuel Bob-Akitani as its candidate in the race. Likewise, turnout was twice as high in the RPT strongholds as in Lome.

Another of the papers, dated 28 April, said the authorities had been planning to force their way into the German embassy where the country’s former Interior Minister Francois Akila Boko had sought refuge.

The reports also cited numerous instances of intimidation and heavy-handed repression by security forces and members of the RPT party.

Turning to diplomatic affairs, it said that Brussels and Washington were both critical of the election process, unlike former colonial power France.

“The United States and the European Commission, unlike France, believe that the conditions in which the 24 April elections and Faure Gnassingbe’s victory were held were questionable and far removed from the path of national reconciliation.”

“At this stage the situation in Togo is far from being stabilised,” the 28 April report said.

A spokesman at EU headquarters in Brussels declined to comment on the leaked reports. But in a statement issued there on Friday, Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel called on Gnassingbe, who was sworn in as president this week, to work for “opening and dialogue.”

“It is essential that Togo take the path of national reconciliation, which alone can bring calm and serenity,” he said.

Diplomats say more than 100 people have been killed in post-election clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.

The opposition -- which had been hoping for change after 38 years of rule by Gnassingbe’s father, Gnassingbe Eyadema -- has said the election was rigged and has blasted the international community for failing to ensure a fully fair and free vote.

Both France and ECOWAS described the vote as basically fair, while conceding there had been a few irregularities.

But in a sharp statement last week the US State Department said “the legitimacy of Togo’s presidential elections fell short of the aspirations of the Togolese people and the expectations of Togo’s friends in the international community.”

In his statement on Friday, Michel said the EU would be watching to see whether Togo complied with pledges it made last year to respect human rights and public liberties.

The EU, which helped establish 22 commitments in April 2004 to promote democracy and civil liberties, has a financial stick that it can wield to exert pressure on the government in Lome. The EU cut off aid to the former French colony in 1993 because of "democratic deficiencies".

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list