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Togo election rivals claim victory

The incumbent president of Togo and his main opponent have both claimed victory in the presidential elections held in the country.

Faure Gnassingbe

Both incumbent Faure Gnassingbe and candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre said yesterday that they had won a large majority of ballots. According to the Associated Press, about one third of all votes have been counted so far. Official results are to be announced later today.

“All the results we have confirm that President Faure has resoundingly, I mean resoundingly, won this election,” commented a spokesman for the government, Pascal Bodjona, to Radio France Internationale.

Meanwhile, Fabre said in a speech to supporters that “[o]n the basis of the counts from certain prefectures, the UFC [Union of Forces for Change] candidate has won an average of 75% to 80% of the votes. We conclude that we have won the presidential election of March 4, 2010.”

The election agency CENI said it will publish official election results later today.

Internet access off in west Africa

SAT-3 cable damage caused internet blackouts in multiple west African countries including Benin, Togo, Niger, and Nigeria. Togo and Niger were “completely offline” and Benin was able to “reroute its net traffic through neighboring countries.”

SAT-3 Map

SAT-3 Map

However, the three nations were able to use alternative satellite links in order to maintain some Internet communication with the rest of the world. Nigeria suffered a 70% loss of bandwidth that caused problems in banking, government and other mobile networks.

President of the Nigeria Internet Group, Lanre Ajayi, said, “[the cable is] a critical national resource because of its importance to the economy and to security.”

Two weeks may pass before the cable is fixed.

Togo abolishes the death penalty

The parliament of Togo has unanimously voted to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had been campaigning for a global moratorium on the death penalty, witnessed the vote. Zapatero commented on the vote, calling it a “giant step for Togo”.

Togo’s Justice Minister Kokuo Tozoun said “I think that it’s the best decision that we took in this year… we don’t have the right to give death to someone if we know that death is not a good thing to give.”

According to human rights organisation Amnesty International, Togo has become the 15th African nation to abolish the death penalty and the 94th country in the world to do so.

There were around 6 inmates on death row in Togo despite the fact that an execution had not been carried out since 1978. Those on death row will have the sentence changed to life imprisonment.