Togo's Olympio joins govt

2010-05-28 16:42

Lome - Gilchrist Olympio, a veteran of 20 years leading Togo's opposition, has agreed to enter a coalition government for the first time but a prominent member of his own party opposed the move.

Olympio's decision is likely to further divide an opposition still contesting a March presidential election win by incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe and unable to break the ruling RPT's grip on power in the phosphate-producing nation.

Olympio's agreement to enter a coalition was under a deal promising his UFC party seven cabinet posts.

"This long battle for democracy, the rule of law ... and economic and social development for the Togolese people has sadly not achieved the results we had hoped for," Olympio, the UFC president, told a news conference late on Thursday.

"That is why, after laborious discussions with the RPT, and having secured the whole-hearted support of our (party's) federations, I have taken the decision to propose for the first time a new way out of the crisis through sharing power."

According to the deal struck between Olympio, son of Togo's first president, and Gnassingbe's RPT, the UFC will hold seven cabinet posts and will nominate people for jobs in state-run businesses, local government and in the diplomatic corps.

The agreement also calls for the implementation within six months of constitutional reforms, which were agreed upon in 2006, after the post-election violence of 2005, when hundreds of people were killed challenging Gnassingbe's win.

Gnassingbe's presidency follows 38 years of dictatorial rule by his father Gnassingbe Eyadema.

However, Jean-Pierre Fabre, who represented the UFC and won just under 34 percent of the vote in this year's polls, rejected Olympio's move, telling French broadcaster RFI that the party's president had not consulted other party leaders.

Fabre said the UFC had previously rejected power-sharing and that the party would meet soon to end the "disorder".

Rolake Akinola, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, said the move was significant in that it was likely to end Olympio's involvement in opposition, but would not loosen Gnassingbe's control of the West African nation.

"This move essentially further weakens the opposition going forward over the next three or four years," she said.

"We should see it as co-option, rather than coalition. The jobs are likely to be largely symbolic. We might just see the party split," she added.

The UFC mounted a failed legal challenge to the March election result and there have been some street protests, but the demonstrations have not turned as violent as in 2005.

Fabre won the UFC's ticket for the elections this year on a technicality as Olympio was out of the country but analysts say divisions have been brewing within the party for some time.