President appoints son as minister in new cabinet

President Gnassingbe Eyadema, Africa's longest serving leader, named a new cabinet on Wednesday in which one of his sons has been appointed minister for the first time.

The new government was appointed following presidential elections on June 1, denounced by the opposition as rigged, which gave Eyadema a fresh five-year term.

Eyadema, who has ruled Togo for 36 years, named one of his sons, Faure Essozima Gnassingbe, as Minister of Public Works, Mines and Telecommunications. The appointment came as little surprise to residents of this former French colony in West Africa. Faure Essozima Gnassingbe has increasingly been seen alongside his father at official functions.

His entry to the cabinet is likely to intensify speculation that Faure is being groomed to succeed his 68-year-old father, who has ruled the country with an iron hand since coming to power in a 1967 coup.

The new 26-member cabinet was billed as a government of national unity, but it excluded Togo's main opposition groups, notably the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) of veteran opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio.

UFC secretary-general Jean-Pierre Fabre said his party had refused to join the government because it wanted a real change in the "methods of governance in Togo.".

The Panafrican Patriotic Convergence party of former prime minister and diplomat Edem Kodjo, the Action Renewal Committee of lawyer Yaowi Agboyibor and the Democratic Committee of African Peoples led by scientist Leopold Gnininvi also declined government posts.

All three men stood against Eyadema in last month's presidential election, which Gilchrist Olympio was banned from contesting.

However, a relative of the opposition leader, Harry Olympio has been kept on by Eyadema as Minister for Parliamentary Relations.

Koffi Sama keeps his job as Prime Minister in the new government and the same faces continue to occupy the key portfolios of defence and the interior.

However, the reshuffled cabinet, which contains eight new entrants, features new ministers of finance and foreign affairs.