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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Togo opposition threatens fight
President Gnassingbe Eyadema  of Togo
Eyadema is Africa's longest serving president
Togo's exiled opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, has said he will fight moves to change the constitution to allow the country's president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, to stand for another term.

Mr Eyadema is Africa's longest-serving head of state, having come to power in a military coup in January 1967.

Togo's opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio
Olympio's father was ousted in coup by Eyadema

Mr Olympio told the BBC's Network Africa that with Mr Eyadema's grip on power, it was difficult for the opposition to do much "in a peaceful way".

On Thursday, Togo's prime minister, Agbeyome Kodjo, said that he was in favour of changing the constitution to enable Mr Eyadema to stand in elections due in 2003.

Togo's constitution was changed in 1992 to limit the president to two terms of five years each.

'Human rights abuses'

Mr Olympio said the proposal was an attempt by the president to, as he put it, bluff his way through economic and political instability.

It has also been announced in Togo that legislative elections scheduled for September have been postponed until next year for technical and financial reasons.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says that Mr Eyadema has held onto office through a combination of tough military rule at home, and carefully-crafted foreign alliances.

He says that during the cold war western nations supported his anti communist rhetoric almost irrespective of the human rights abuses his regime committed.

Cleared

Prior to the latest moves, Mr Eyadema has publicly stated that he wants to retire when his current term expires.

Mr Eyadema is currently attending the racism conference in South Africa and it is not known if the prime minister was speaking on his own initiative or if the statement was previously cleared with the president.

Mr Olympio is the son of Sylvanus Olympio, who led Togo to independence in 1960.

Three years later, he lost power in a military coup.

Gilchrist Olympio has been living in exile for many years in neighbouring Ghana, as well as in France and the US.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC interview with Gilchrist Olympio
"It is difficult to do too much in a peaceful way"
See also:

11 Aug 01 | Africa
Riot police disperse Togo demo
10 Jan 01 | Africa
Timeline: Togo
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Togo
22 Jun 01 | Africa
Stricken refugee ship 'saved'
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