LOME, May 29 (Reuters) - Togo’s main opposition party has suspended its long-serving leader, Gilchrist Olympio, for agreeing to enter a coalition with the ruling RPT government that it says stole power.
Protest rallies have erupted across the West African phosphate producer nation since President Faure Gnassingbe, son of former dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, won re-election in a March vote opponents say was rigged.
Olympio, leader of Togo’s opposition for two decades, on Thursday announced a power-sharing deal to end the dispute that gives his party seven ministries including foreign affairs, but the move was rejected by some supporters.
“The national office decided to temporarily suspend Mr. Gilchrist Olympio from the UFD (opposition group) and all who are taking part in the RPT’s efforts against the interests of the party and the aspirations of the Togolese,” the UFD said following an emergency meeting late on Friday.
“By consequence, Mr. Gilchrist Olympio and all who follow him in this adventure are no longer permitted to speak or to act in the name of the UFD,” according to the statement, signed by UFD Secretary General Jean-Pierre Fabre.
Demonstrations across Lome since the March poll, widely seen as a test for democracy in a fractious region, have not been as violent as those following a 2005 vote in which hundreds were killed and thousands fled to neighbouring countries.
Fabre represented the UFD party in the March vote instead of Olympio who was disqualified on a technicality and analysts say divisions have been brewing within the party for some time. (Reporting by John Zodzi; Writing by Richard Valdmanis)