Monday, December 17, 2007

Intrigue flies as Faure names new cabinet in Togo

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé named a new cabinet, scraping the old unity government, reducing the number of ministers, ditching posts for the largest opposition party and sacking his brother, the former head of defense.

In a day full of shake ups, the biggest news is that Kpatcha Gnassingbé, Faure’s brother, will no longer be a part of the government. The press speculates that the two didn’t get along and Kpatcha was a threat to power because he originally battled Faure for the post of president after the 2005 death of their long-serving father, Gnassingbe Eyadema.

However, the break may be more profound than that. At least one researcher points out that as head of military militias, Kpatcha, who was nicknamed “vice president” by many, has long been implicated in numerous human rights violations and was responsible stocking the country’s military leadership with members of the northern Kabiyé ethnic group, the same group as the Gnassingbé family.

The move must still be seen as a consolidation of power, but perhaps Faure is slowly moving beyond politics of the past – the days of ethnic preference and a judicial blank check for the powerful military.

In other moves, Faure reduced the number of ministers to 21 from the previous 34. The main opposition party, the Union of Force for Change, lost its cabinet posts, Reuters said, after talks between the president and party leader Gilchris Olympio went nowhere.

"The RPT won the elections now they must govern," UFC spokesman Crosby Quist told Reuters. "If the RPT considers there is a crisis and calls on us, we will impose our demands."

In the October 14 legislation elections, which were generally considered to be free and fair, the ruling Rally of the Togolese People party, won 50 of 81 parliamentary seats, the UFC took 27 and former Prime Minister Yawovi Agboyibo’s Action Committee for Renovation won four.

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