Coup in Togo after President dies

The flag of Togo

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Togo —After the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the army of the African state of Togo has suspended the constitution and installed the son of the late President, Faure Eyadéma, as the new leader.

The constitution stipulates that the parliament's speaker should take over power in the event of the death of the President. Eyadéma did not hold the office of Speaker of the Parliament at the time of his father's death.

The African Union has spoken of a "military coup" taking place in the country. The United Nations and the European Union have also made calls for the army to respect the rules of the state.

By the time Eyadéma's death was announced on public radio, the army had already sealed the border. It then installed Faure, previously the communications minister, as president. Army Chief of Staff Gen Zakari Nandja said the decision had been taken to "avoid a power vacuum."

The speaker of parliament, Fambare Natchaba Ouattara, who was returning to Togo from Paris, was reportedly not permitted entry due to the border closure. He is now exiled in neighbouring Benin.

Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 69, Africa's longest-standing ruler, died while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad. After seizing power 38 years ago, he dissolved all political parties. He legalized elections due to popular pressure in 1991, but won three elections. Accusations of electoral fraud and political repression continued. In 2002, he amended the constitution to lower the minimum age for the presidency from 45 years to 35 years.

The day after the president's death, Natchaba was dismissed by the parliament and unanimously replaced by Faure Eyadéma by the deputies who were present at that time. The parliament also eliminated a constitutional requirement that elections be held within 60 days of the president's death, clearing the way for Faure to rule until the end of his father's term in 2008.