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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
New palace for Togo's new leader
New presidential palace
The palace has more than 40 offices and banqueting halls
A year after winning disputed elections, Togo's leader has inaugurated a new presidential palace.

Faure Gnassingbe's supporters cheered wildly as he cut the ribbon on the multi-million dollar complex.

It was built by the Chinese and the inauguration comes a month after Mr Faure's week-long visit to China.

Many Togolese say little else has changed in the past year, although civil servants are now being paid on time for the first time in years.

Construction boom

The new presidential palace has two floors and more than 40 separate offices, banquet and conference halls.

The foundation stone was laid by Mr Faure's late father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema and work started in April 2004.

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At the inauguration ceremony, the Chinese ambassador spoke glowingly about the two countries' relations but refused to say how much the building had cost Togo.

During Mr Faure's trip to China, the Chinese also promised to build a new parliamentary building.

The presidential palace is not the only new building going up in Lome.

Some point to the massive construction works on the capital's dilapidated streets as a sign of positive change under Mr Faure but not everyone agrees.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe
President Faure Gnassingbe succeeded his late father
"Nothing much has changed in Togo in the last year," student John Attah told the BBC's Ebow Godwin in the capital, Lome.

"There is still unemployment , suffering in poverty."

However journalist John Hunkporti says things are changing.

"The press is free, and Togolese are now watching the national television once again because the opposition leaders are now allowed to take part in the programmes.

"We also have a new dialogue between the government and the opposition groups. That is a good thing."

But Tomi Augustin does not believe the talks can succeed.

"Faure Gnassingbe confiscated power during the last elections so we cannot carry out any meaningful changes."

"As for the dialogue, we have had more than 15 dialogues since 1991, and nothing came out of them."

More than 500 people were killed in violent clashes between the security forces and opposition supporters protesting about alleged fraud in the elections.

Some 35,000 people fled into neighbouring Benin and Ghana.




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