Government bans protest amid claims of election fraud
Togo's government has banned a march by opposition parties to protest against the re-election of President Faure Gnassingbe, ratcheting up the tension in the wake of Thursday's disputed poll.
AFP - The Togolese government on Monday banned a march planned by opposition parties to protest the result of the country's presidential election, won by incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe.
The opposition called at the weekend for a major demonstration on Tuesday, after the electoral commission announced Gnassingbe had won the poll.
On Monday the government responded by slapping a ban on the march, as unease mounted in the tiny west African country where clashes at the last presidential election left hundreds dead.
"Demonstrations on the public street cannot be organised on working days, because they interrupt activities," government spokesman Pascal Bodjoma told AFP.
The constitution recognised the right to demonstrate in a peaceful fashion but it also "obliges us to ensure the protection and security of all individuals," he said.
Shops and offices reopened Monday in Lome after the electoral commission declared Gnassingbe had won Thursday's poll with 60.92 percent of the vote, while his main rival Jean-Pierre Fabre took 33.94 percent.
But some residents were uneasy ahead of the planned opposition protest.
Stalls in the Hedzranawoe market, one of the biggest in the capital, were open for business, but in the same district the head of a private primary school told AFP that he was asking his pupils "to stay at home on Tuesday".
Fabre has refused to recognise his defeat and claimed that Gnassingbe won the election by fraud.
His Union of Forces for Change (UFC) and three other small opposition parties called people out to a march followed by a rally "to protest at the fraudulent results of the presidential poll of March 4."
They have threatened to march every day.
On Sunday armed riot police violently put down a demonstration by more than 200 opposition supporters, while Fabre himself was forced to take shelter in the UFC headquarters.
He denounced the "brutality and savage treatment" by the regime of Gnassingbe, who was first put in power in 2005 by the military upon the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled for 38 years.
"The opposition never recognises when they are defeated, they are egoists," said a stew vendor, Mazalo Sizing, plying her trade Monday close to the headquarters of the ruling Togolese People's Rally.
"Our opposition needs to realise that it is badly organised and that's the reason for its failure."
The weekly L'Eveil, headlined "Fabre Bad Loser", said the UFC leader lacked "tangible proof" of his allegations of fraud.
Fabre accused the national independent electoral agency CENI of falsifying the results of the poll, seen as a test of democracy for Togo which has been ruled for more than four decades by the same dynasty.
"We're preparing to march ourselves as well, because the street belongs to everybody," said a Gnassingbe partisan, Hubert Ezin.
In 2005 Gnassingbe stepped down after the army put him in power to stand for election in a vote he won but which led to a wave of violence when between 400 and 500 people were killed, according to the United Nations.
Thursday's election passed off without major violence but observers from the regional Economic Community of West African States reported problems with ballot papers and a dozen opposition activists have been arrested since Saturday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm at the weekend, and for all electoral grievances to be referred to legal channels.
The paper Le Flambeau des Democrates said there was a "demobilisation of UFC supporters" during the vote because people "remembered the post-electoral violence of April 2005".
"It's a secret from nobody that the people wants change, (but) people preferred to stay at home rather than go to vote," the paper said.