Tensions mount as Gnassingbe provisionally re-elected

President Faure Gnassingbe has been re-elected in Togo, based on the provisional results of the vote count. Hundreds of supporters of rival candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre took to the streets in protest, and were dispersed by police.


AFP - Riot police took to the streets of Lome Saturday and security forces dispersed opposition supporters with teargas as final results from Togo's presidential election came in.

The police in anti-riot gear and gendarmes fanned out across the seaside capital, setting up barricades at strategic points, and the city's usually-crowded streets were deserted and businesses closed.

"We do not know what is going to happen. We are all afraid. We do not know how we will wake up tomorrow," Jean-Luc, a motorcycle taxi driver, told AFP.

"It is very simple, we shall wake up in the morning with a gendarme as a companion," one of his colleagues joked, hoping to break the anxious mood.

The electoral agency announced late Saturday incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe had been re-elected, beating his opposition rival Jean-Pierre Fabre.

Gnassingbe, president since 2005, when he took over after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled for 38 years, got 1,243,044 votes, the agency said.

In the afternoon, news of partial results from the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) prompted tensions in Lome, where the opposition enjoys strong support.

Fabre and several hundred supporters of his Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party protested at the way the results were compiled.

They headed for Independence Square but security forces dispersed them with teargas.

"We were at the Independence Square, we were blocked. We were doused with teargas," UFC official Eric Dupuy told AFP.

Fear of violence, which has marred Togo elections in the past, kept many Lome residents in their homes, and businesses closed early.

Some 200 youths gathered in front of UFC headquarters in Be district, drinking and singing.

"Let Fabre win or there will fire in Lome or otherwise the country will burn," one of them said.

Others accosted foreign journalists saying "tell the truth, we no longer want Gnassingbe".

The vote was widely seen as a test of whether democracy would find a foothold in this poor country of 6.5 million inhabitants.

Besides Fabre and Gnassingbe, five other candidates were in the fray to be the country's next leader.

In Wuiti district, home to Lome's university, the mood outside the ruling RPT party headquarters, was calm.

About a dozen Gnassingbe supporters wearing green, the party's colour, were also waiting for the official final verdict of the poll, over which the two main candidates have claimed victory.


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