An empty market, tightened security and a general wariness of possible violence have greeted the announcement of President Fauré Gnassingbé’s re-election, pending constitutional court approval, with 61 percent of the two million votes cast on 4 March.
Business at the largest market in the capital, Lomé, has slowed after anxious merchants shuttered their stands. “I am waiting to see how the country will be after results are announced to continue my work in the market,” fish vendor, Da Vivi, told IRIN. “Since Friday [5 March] I have not been to the market because I do not know what will happen. My life is more important than money.”
Demonstrations were quickly dispersed with tear gas during the vote count and again on 7 March. There have not been reports of excessive use of force, according to local human rights groups. Hotlines set up to report poll violence remained silent.
President Gnassingbé was elected in a 2005 contested poll that led to a bloody security crackdown, hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of Togolese fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.
Photo: Etonam Ahianyo/IRIN
|The largest market in Togo's capital, Lomé, remains shuttered on 7 March during an electoral row|
Leading opposition candidate, Jean-Pierre Fabre, told IRIN on 7 March that his party, the Union of Forces for Change, will dispute the vote with daily demonstrations. “We will launch a popular uprising until victory is ours.” Even though counting has proceeded publicly, this has not stemmed the opposition’s accusations of fraud. “They [ruling party] want to hide the real results to put forth false ones. And we will not accept it,” Fabre told IRIN.
The ruling party has dismissed claims of fraud as “fantasies from the opposition to foment violence” in the country’s most closely observed election since Togo started holding multi-party elections in 1993. There were more than 3,000 local and international election observers covering almost 6,000 voting stations.
A newly formed youth group – Citizen Movement for Change – claiming hundreds of members trained in “democracy vigilance” is ready to take to the streets, said one of its leaders, Guillaume Messan. “People of Togo, if you love your country and are ready to die for it, know that the time has come to fight for the liberation of your country,” he told IRIN on 6 March.
A political and security professor at the University of Lomé, Sodokin Koffi, told IRIN how the armed forces responds to these threats and any eventual outbreak will determine if lives are lost. “The security forces were trained before the elections and I hope they use conventional methods [to put down violence] that we have seen [used] elsewhere so the worst cannot happen.”
Relief workers have been trained in every potential election outcome, Togolese Red Cross director of relief services, Amah Victor Sodogas, told IRIN. “We went through simulation exercises in January and have been on alert. Given the tension, anything can happen and we are ready.”
/// This article includes updates to the report first published on 6 March.///