Togo's army installs new leader illegally

WORLD LEADERS urged Togo to respect its laws yesterday, after the army snubbed the constitution and named a new president after the death of Gnassingbe Eyadema, ruler of the West African country for 38 years.

Togo's efforts to improve ties with the EU and unlock millions of Euros in aid will be jeopardised if it does not restore constitutional rule, it was made clear yeaterday. Togo's constitution says the head of the national assembly should assume power and elections are to be held within 60 days but army chiefs instead sealed the country's borders and appointed one of Eyadema's sons, Faure Gnassingbe, late on Saturday.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan ,said he hoped Togo would ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

President Jacques Chirac, who had a close relationship with Eyadema, rang African leaders to discuss how to make Togo stick to the constitution and backed the UN's critical stance.

Both the 53-member African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States slammed the speedy appointment of the 39-year-old, a move the army said was designed to fill a "power vacuum" in the former French colony.

Alpha Omar Konare, the African Union Commission President , a former president of Mali, called it a military coup.

Eyadema, a former wrestler who sported dark suits and rarely removed his sunglasses, seized power in a 1967 coup. He was the archetypal African "Big Man" who brooked little opposition and became the continent's longest serving leader. (Reuters)

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