Palace battle fails to unseat Togo PM



Mark Huband in Abidjan and agencies in Lomé

The Guardian, 29 November 1991

Troops trying to reimpose Toga’s former military dictator yesterday surrounded the prime minister’s palace with tanks in an attempt to overthrow him, but were beaten back by the palace guard leaving 12 people dead.

The prime minister, Kokou Koffigoh, was surrounded in the building, together with the French ambassador, Bruno Delaye, by rebellious troops and defended only by the palace guard.

The guard has so far remained loyal to him and the reformist government he has led since the end of August when President Gnassingbe Eyadema was stripped of all but ceremonial powers.

Since soldiers seized the radio station for the first time on Wednesday, 13 people are reported to have been killed in clashes in the city between Mr Koffigoh’s supporters and troops loyal to General Eyadema.

The soldiers seized the radio station for a second time yesterday. Witnesses in Lomé said they saw soldiers fire on Koffigoh supporters near government offices, killing eight.

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, Mr Koffigoh said he was in contact with General Eyadema and the rebellious troops and hoped to find a peaceful solution.

According to a military source in Togo, the army is divided in its support for the coup, and Mr Koffigoh is trying to use soldiers loyal to him to mediate with the renegade troops. At least 4,000 members of the country’s 6,000-strong army come from President Eyadema’s Kabye tribe, which dominates the senior ranks.

In an interview yesterday, the source identified the coup leader as Major Yomo Djoua, a confidante of General Eyadema and one of three army officers awaiting trial for attempting to kidnap the prime minister on November 2.

Throughout yesterday, the coup plotters broadcast cornmuniques from the captured radio station demanding the dissolution of the transitional legislature, the High Council of Republic, and of all political parties.

Another communique said General Eyadema should appoint a new government and prime minister, though he could reappoint Mr Koffigoh to the position if he wanted. This suggests that troops’ real intention is to ensure General Eyadema’s continued supremacy in the decision-making process.


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