Togo soldiers throw corpses into lagoon




Mark Huband in Abidjan

Witnesses see 21 killed for breaking night curfew

The Guardian, 12 April 1991

SOLDIERS killed up to 21 people and dumped their bodies in a lagoon in the Togolese capital Lomé yesterday, witnesses said. Two boys aged 10 and a pregnant woman were among the victims whose bodies were pulled from the lagoon.

Reports from Lomé say that soldiers claimed the dead had broken a night curfew which was imposed throughout the country on Tuesday after three days of demonstrations against the government.

A spokesman for the Togolese human rights league, Togbui Kakou, said: “We know it was done by the military by the way it was done. We can tell because they have all been beaten severely and we have witnesses who saw the soldiers take them away.”

The face of one of the dead women was beaten almost beyond recognition, witnesses said.

There has been no government response to the discovery of the bodies.

The killings led to increased tension in the city on what began as the first day of calm since Saturday, when demonstrators first took to the streets demanding political reform. The deaths of two protesters at the weekend led President Gnassingbe Eyadema to dismiss soldiers who, he said, disobeyed his orders by firing on a crowd.

Protesters marched towards President Eyadema’s palace yesterday as street barricades reappeared and youths rampaged through the streets threatening people with bottles unless they gave them money.

While the protests were started by pro-democracy students, the reponse of the security services has encouraged workers in the poor districts of Lomé to take to the streets. Looting and vandalism have been widespread.

The opposition Associated Front for Renewal (FAR) has complained that without access to the state media it cannot call the violent demonstrations to a halt.

But the FAR has not distanced itself from the demands of those involved.

The government agreed to introduce political reforms at a late-night cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Political parties are to be legalised and political prisoners granted amnesty.

So far the promise of reform has failed to appease the protesters.

“We are going to demonstrate until Eyadema quits,” one said yesterday, adding that cars, would be prevented from using the streets of Lomé to increase pressure on the President to resign.



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