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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Profile: Faure Gnassingbe
Faure Gnassingbe
Mr Faure is the only one of his many siblings who went into politics

It was no great surprise when 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe was hurriedly installed by the military as Togo's new president in February 2005 when his father Gnassingbe Eyadema died.

What was unexpected was that West African neighbours demanded the constitution be adhered to and he stepped down in order to contest elections on 24 April.

Like his father - one of Africa's longest serving leaders - Mr Faure is a man of very few words.

But he does have the fierce loyalty of the West African country's well-organised and well-equipped military, says the BBC's Ebow Godwin.

Born in 1966 to a mother who hails from Atakpame in central Togo, he was one of Eyadema's many sons; and according to journalist Andrew Manley, seen as the most level-headed.

"He was always regarded as the most pliable by the military clique surrounding Eyadema for the last 15 to 20 years," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"Some of us have been predicting that some sort of a succession would be organised by hook or by crook."

Newcomer

The new leader - who looks very much like his father, except for a moustache - is a private, solemn man who rarely speaks in public.

Togo's late president, Gnassingbe Eyadema
Mr Faure shares some of his father's characteristics, including his looks

His admirers say he is a good listener, our reporter says.

Unlike his father, who led a military coup as a young sergeant in 1967, Mr Faure has more of a background in business.

He studied at France's Sorbonne University and has an MBA from the George Washington University in the United States.

According to Reuters news agency, he was his father's financial adviser, running the family's economic interests - particularly overseas.

He is a relative newcomer to politics, entering the political fray in June 2002, when he won a seat in parliamentary elections as a candidate of the ruling Togo People's Rally (RPT) in Blitta constituency in central Togo.

'Marvellous negotiator'

Later, he was appointed by his father as minister for telecommunications, mines and equipment - a post he held until his Eyadema's death in February.

Map showing the location of Togo
While his son was minister, Eyadema lowered the eligibility age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35 years when the ruling RPT-dominated parliament unilaterally amended the Togo constitution in December 2002.

The new president used to accompany his late father on numerous international diplomatic assignments.

He is also reported to have played a big role in recent negotiations between Togo and the European Union (EU) following President Eyadema's pledge last year to the EU to carry out more democratic reforms in Togo.

Dynastic succession

The late president once told journalists he would never impose a successor on his people.

According to our reporter, Eyadema considered political leadership a matter for destiny to decide.

But Andrew Manley says dynastic succession is a characteristic of more conservative Francophone African countries, where power is heavily concentrated around the presidency - which in turn is dependent on the backing of the former colonial power, France.

Remnants of chieftaincy traditions are also a deciding factor, he says, as illustrated by government ministers who are more akin to "courtiers".

Few will be surprised if he succeeds his father as Togo's next leader in elections the opposition say are hurriedly organised and flawed.




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