Togo rioters win pledge of reform

Reuters in Lomé and Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 11 April 1991

TOGO’S government approved reforms yesterday after two days of rioting in the capital, Lomé, had prompted the imposition of a curfew.

State radio announced late in the day that a cabinet meeting chaired by President Gnassingbe Eyadema had agreed that political parties should be legalised and that an amnesty should be granted for political crimes.

A draft law to this effect is to go before the country’s rubber-stamp parliament today. President Eyadema gave in to striking taxi drivers and reduced the price of fuel.

The government stationed tanks and thousands of troops along the country’s border with Ghana yesterday, in response to rumours that Togolese dissidents living in in exile there planned to join the demonstrations, in which thousands of students demanding President Eyadema’s resignation fought with riot police.

The government also announced the closure of all schools and the Lomé campus of the University of Benin.

Yesterday’s protesters seized control of the city’s slum districts of Be and Adjoviakope, using burning tyres to block the roads. On Tuesday night the government introduced a night-time curfew throughout the country. The demonstrations have left hundreds injured and parts of the once smart city of Lomé in tatters.

Last Friday, two protesters were killed outside the headquarters of the ruling party when police opened fire on a crowd.

President Eyadema met opposition leaders after the shooting and said he had dismissed the guilty soldiers from the army and had them arrested for flouting his orders not to open fire.

The opposition, led by the Associated Front for Renewal, has remained in an unofficial alliance with the student demonstrators who believe that the government will renege on promises of democracy unless it is forced to keep its word.

President Eyadema, facing his worst crisis since he seized power in a 1967 coup, had promised reforms and an amnesty last month after three days of rioting in which human rights groups said 10 people died.

He said that multiparty elections would be held this year and that a national conference would set a reform timetable.



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