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Togo's Reforms Stymied by Army

AFRICA'S road to democracy is sometimes a bumpy one. In a test case for democratic reform, the tiny West African state of Togo is finding out just how bumpy that road can be.At least 25 people are reported to have been killed and about 100 wounded since Thursday when the military seized control of the capital, Lome, demanding dissolution of the civilian interim government set up in August. On Monday, troops again surrounded the residence of interim Prime Minister Joseph Kokou Koffigoh. "We've been taken hostage, again," an aide to Mr. Koffigoh said by telephone. With both domestic and international pressure increasing for multiparty democracy in Togo after President Gnassingbe Eyadema's 24-year military dictatorship, the president, the military, and civilian transitional leaders face the task of finding common ground to allow moves to democratic rule to resume. This latest military show of force - following several briefer ones in the past two months - tests the process of democratic change in Africa in two ways: First, how far and how fast can a civilian opposition push military rulers aside? Second, how willing is a military-backed dictator to give ground and avoid violence? The military clampdown was a reaction to a Nov. 26 order by Togo's transitional parliament to abolish the Rally of Togolese People, Togo's sole political party dominated by Mr. Eyadema and the military. The party's dissolution follows claims by members of Togo's interim parliament that party members were blocking attempts by some of Togo's new opposition parties to hold rallies. But Togolese attorney Djovi Gally says the military "was looking for an occasion to reestablish the power of Eyadema." In August, after months of upheaval, Eyadema reluctantly agreed to a national conference to discuss political reform. With civilian opponents far outnumbering government representatives conference delegates voted themselves the sovereign power in Togo. Eyadema was stripped of most of his power. Koffigoh was elected interim prime minister and given the task of organizing multiparty elections later this year. The conference also claimed control over the Army. Sunday, Eyadema's spokesman Koffe Pano said by telephone that Eyadema has "expressed his renewed confidence in Koffigoh and asked him to form a new government which would include all major political forces." Presumably this means more of the president's supporters and possibly military representatives. Mr. Gally, who supports democratic reform, says the civilian government is "not reasonably representative." He criticizes interim leaders for failing to open a dialogue early on with Eyadema and the military. But he says Koffigoh has begun making contacts with Eyadema and the military. He says Togolese who criticize such contacts are wrong, and must realize the opposition may not reach its goals of democracy if it tries to humiliate Eyadema, who still controls the Army. Gally sees room for compromise if both sides stop provoking each other and work together.

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