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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Profile: Togo's vendetta victim
Gilchrist Olympio
The exiled politician is the son of Togo's first president
Veteran Togolese opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio is leading the campaign for his Union of Forces for Change, even though he is not his party's candidate in Sunday's election.

Since an assassination attempt in 1992 , when his motorcade came under fire, Mr Olympio has lived in exile with his wife and children, splitting his time between France and Ghana.

Togo's election laws - changed before the last elections in 2003 - state that presidential candidates must live in the country and so UFC deputy leader Emmanuel Bob Akitani is standing on behalf of a coalition of opposition parties.

The charismatic 66-year-old exile enjoys the status of being the son of Togo's first President Sylvanus Olympio who was assassinated in January 1963, in what has been described as the first coup d'etat in independent Africa.

Mr Olympio, who was 27 at the time of his father's murder, accuses Togo's long-time leader, Gnassingbe Eyadema of having a hand in the overthrow and death of his father.

Family feud

Before his death in February, Mr Eyadema vehemently denied the claim.

The enmity and political rivalry between the two men became so fierce and intensely personal that the BBC's Ebow Godwin in the capital, Lome, says that are concerns that it has transformed the democratic struggle in Togo into a vendetta between the Eyadema and Olympio families.

Emmanuel Bob-Akitani
Mr Akitani is running on Mr Olympio's behalf for a second election

Ironically, the two men shared a birthday having been born on 26 December 1936. Astrologers say that their shared horoscope explains their mutual dislike.

Now, the family feud is being taken on, with Mr Eyadema's son Faure Gnassingbe contesting the election on behalf of the ruling RPT party.

And another member of the Olympio clan, Gilchrist's cousin Harry is standing - for a different party.

Harry Olympio, however, is not as vehemently opposed to the Eyademas and met Mr Faure at a peace meeting brokered by West African officials and boycotted by the UFC.

Mr Olympio enjoys a large following in the south, where people fondly refer to him as Yovovi - the son of the black, white man, because of his fair complexion.

He is an eloquent orator, at ease with French and English. He was educated in Ghana and at the London School of Economics and also briefly worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But politics has been his chosen career path.

Waiting game

Despite living in exile, Mr Olympio denies he is a coward. "Anyone who has been bitten by a snake, fears even the earthworm," he says.

Harry Olympio (l) and Faure Gnassingbe (r)
Harry Olympio (l) is less strongly opposed to Faure Gnassingbe (r) than his cousin Gilchrist
UFC officials refuse to say whether Mr Akitani would change the laws and hand power to Mr Olympio if he wins the election.

But Mr Akitani, 75, lacks the charisma of his mentor and he has been further hit by RPT charges that he represents the past - in contrast to Mr Faure, 39.

Mr Akitani also stood in the 2003 poll and gained nearly 33% of the vote.

After spending most of his life trying to reclaim the presidential office once enjoyed by his father, Mr Olympio takes the long view.

He has been quoted as saying: "The night may be long but the morning will certainly come."

Exile to run in Togo poll
13 Mar 03 |  Africa
Africa's big men and the ballot
30 Dec 02 |  Africa
Togo poll without opposition
25 Oct 02 |  Africa


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