- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

LOME, Togo — For years, Foli Nyassia watched as his neighbors were beaten, arrested and snatched away in the night by soldiers under Togo’s late dictator.

Now the new president — son of the former dictator — professes to have embraced democracy and vows to unite his divided country. But Mr. Nyassia says little has changed in his opposition-dominated neighborhood of Be, on the eastern edge of Lome.

There, the disputed April 24 election of Faure Gnassingbe, who took the oath of office May 4, led to days of clashes, deadly nighttime visits by soldiers and the flight of thousands of terrified residents across the borders to neighboring Ghana and Benin.

The raids and harassment have prompted many Be residents to flee the country. They are among 20,000 Togolese who have left since the government opened the borders a week ago, U.N. officials say.

The government has repeatedly denied targeting innocent civilians in opposition neighborhoods.

For all his talk of reform, Mr. Gnassingbe was a member of his father’s Cabinet and has never clearly denounced Togo’s brutal past. Whatever his intentions, it is not clear to what extent he can control the military.

In the last week of April, Mr. Nyassia said, he watched soldiers force a crippled man out of a church to dismantle barricades erected by demonstrators. As the man struggled to walk, the soldiers shot him in the stomach, then dragged him away, Mr. Nyassia said.

“After every election, the soldiers come looking for militants,” said Mr. Nyassia, who sent his wife and children to Ghana last Thursday.

In past elections in 1993, 1998 and 2003, the government under the late dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema sent soldiers into opposition neighborhoods such as Be, Nyekonakpoe and Adamavo to crush demonstrations.

This time, residents say, the government also punished them by shutting down electricity, water and garbage collection.

A confidential European Union report on last month’s presidential election win by Faure Gnassingbe in Togo found there was “presumptive evidence of massive fraud,” according to a copy obtained by Agence France-Presse last Friday in Brussels.

The analysis by an EU diplomat looked at voter lists in Togo and found that there appeared to be a gap between the number of registered voters and the estimated population of voting age, with more than 34 percent of 900,000 voters presumed to be false, according to a copy of the report obtained by AFP.

The gap was particularly important in areas reported to favor the ruling party, the Rally for the Togolese People, with voter participation between 80 percent and 99 percent.

In contrast, in Lome, which favored the opposition, voter participation was about 35 percent, as 390,000 registered voters did not or could not vote, the report said.

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