French refuse to send troops to aid reformist Togo government



Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 7 December 1991

France’s foreign minister, Roland Dumas, made it clear yesterday that no French troops would be sent to Togo to defend the democratic process it has insisted its former colonies carry out, and said France’s military pacts in Africa would be reconsidered.

The French newspaper Liberation quoted Mr Dumas yesterday as saying: “Certainly, in the context of the new Africa, we must reconsider our military co-operation agreements. But I would prefer that decision to be taken calmly, not in the heat of the moment.”

Mr Dumas’ partial clarification of France’s position came after protests erupted in three African countries against decision not to defend the reformist government of Joseph Kokou Koffigoh in Togo, which was overthrown in a military coup on Tuesday.

Togolese living in Ghana staged a demonstration outside the French embassy, chanting anti-French slogans. In the Ivory Coast, Togolese residents condemned France for not sending in troops to defend the government from mutinous who eventually arrested Mr Koffigoh. But the largest protest was in Togo’s capital, Lomé.

France sent 300 troops to neighbouring Benin on Monday night, intending only to send them to Togo if the 3,000 French nationals in the country were threatened. Only 30 were sent to guard the French embassy in Lomé. This led to protests in Benin that France was using the country as a military base, compromising Benin’s territorial integrity.

The refusal of France to assist the Koffigoh government is being seen as a turning point in its relationship with Africa.

Yesterday, Mr Dumas said he had asked the presidents of the Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Senegal to attempt a mediation between the conflicting sides in Togo.


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