Hunger strike puts Togo opposition leader in hospital

A Togolese opposition leader who has been on hunger strike for two weeks has been taken to hospital, his associates said on Wednesday.

Nicodeme Ayao Habia, who has refused food since September 19, has been demanding the release of protesters who were detained after demonstrating against the ruling government.

He was admitted to a clinic in the capital, Lome, after his condition worsened, his communication advisor Achille Mensah told AFP.

"Habia should be cared for in Accra (Ghana's capital) but the ambulance that took him wasn't able to cross the border," he said.

"Togolese immigration officers said they were not aware of his evacuation, even though we had the necessary clearance," Mensah added, saying that arrangements were still being made to take Habia out of the country for medical treatment.

Habia has been staging his hunger strike outside Ghana's embassy in Lome. Accra has also been acting as mediator in a long-running dispute between the Togolese government and opposition figures over constitutional reform.

Last week, a Ghanaian military plane landed in Lome to transport Habia but it was not allowed to leave the airport due to a lack of detail about its mission, according to Togo's security minister General Yark Damehane.

"Togo is not a colony of Ghana," said Damehane, adding that Ghana could not send a plane without letting the Togolese authorities know first.

Referring to Habia's hunger strike, Damehane said: "It's theatre. You want us to play along?"

Habia has called for the release from prison of some 40 opposition activists who were arrested during protests demanding the resignation of Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe.

Meanwhile, an umbrella organisation for many civil society groups in the tiny West African country announced a new anti-government march for Friday, October 5.

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