AU leader rejects Togo mediator

The chairperson of the African Union has rejected the group’s appointment of a mediator for crisis-hit Togo, saying he wasn’t properly consulted, officials said on Monday.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who currently holds the rotating AU chairmanship, has led West African efforts to resolve the Togo crisis. He “repudiated” the appointment of an AU mediator, his spokesperson Femi Fani-Kayode said.

Obasanjo “is not a rubber-stamp chairman ... and it is within the confines of decency and decorum for him to be consulted”, Fani-Kayode said by telephone from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The 53-nation AU, increasingly involved in peace-brokering in Africa, said from its Ethiopia headquarters last week that former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda would mediate in a deadly political crisis among Togo’s ruling and opposition parties.

Togo has remained tense since an April 24 presidential ballot, which the opposition claimed was marred by fraud.
Faure Gnassingbe, the son of the late dictator, was declared the winner, sparking days of riots that left dozens dead. More than 30 000 fled to neighbouring Benin and Ghana.

Gnassingbe has spent much of his first three weeks in office meeting with various opposition groups in an effort to end the crisis by forming a government of national unity.

The AU says it is pushing for a greater role in efforts aimed at ending the political crisis. Until now, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas)—dominated by Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation—has led mediation efforts.

An Ecowas-hosted meeting in Nigeria last month between Gnassingbe and his opponents failed to make progress on a unity government. Gnassingbe’s main opponent, Gilchrist Olympio, said he first wanted to see an end to alleged government abuses.

Togo tumbled into crisis on February 5 when long-time dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema died suddenly of a heart attack and the military named his son hours later to replace him, contravening the Constitution. Within weeks, Gnassingbe bowed to foreign and domestic pressure, stepped down and held elections.

On Friday, the AU lifted sanctions against Togo following the polls, declaring the government there constitutional.—Sapa-AP

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