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General News of Friday, 12 March 2004


Newspaper Story Causes Diplomatic Row

A piece of highly provocative news item published by he Ghanaian National Democratic opposition newspaper in which President Eyadema of Togo is reported to have allegedly boasted before a crowd of supporters in Lome that with the change of government, he now rules Ghana from Togo has set the Togolese authorities on the war path.

The National Democrat newspaper carried on the front page of its issue of Monday March 8, 2004 a screaming banner headline titled :I RULE GHANA?? declares Prez Eyadema. The newspaper also alleged among other things that the Togolese Head of Sate told the crowd of supporters in Lome that the status quo in Ghana would remain the same so that no Togolese opposition will be able to use Ghanaian territory to destabilize his government in Tog.

The newspaper reporter, Lawrence Arthur, did not give the source of his story, nor did he attribute it to any newspaper publication. He also did not say whether he was in Lome at the time the declaration was made. A group of Ghanaian journalist who were in Lome to interview President Eyadema on Sunday February 22, this year, on ECOWAS related issues, also said they did not hear President Eyadema make such a declaration.

The ox of the Togolese authorities has been severely gored. A disappointed President Eyadema on Thursday reliably ordered his new Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Ghana, Gbikpi-Benissan, to send an officials protest note to the Ghanaian authorities and the Ghana Media Commission.

The National Democrat newspaper belongs to the National Democratic Congress party, founded by the ex-Ghanaian Head of State, Flt. Jerry John Rawlings, which lost the last democratic elections held in Ghana. Sources say the newspaper has not been happy wih the recent close links forged by President Eyadema and his Ghanaian counterpart, President Kufuor. President Kfuor has improved diplomatic relations with Togo since he came to power in 2000. He is now the current ECOWAS Chairman.

Both leaders are committed to the larger goal of ECOWAS integration and believe that this vision must be given a new impulse by ensuring greater improvement in Ghana-Togo relations. Ghana-Togo relations suffered a nose-dive in the early 80s when President Rawlings chaired the military Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) junta which arbitrary closed the Ghana-Tog border at Aflao for over one year when it first came to power in December 1981.

Now Presidents Eyadema and John Kufuor have agreed to future plans for the reopening of the Ghana-Togo border at Aflao on a 24-hour basis. Togolese authorities have denied the allegations contained in the Ghanaian opposition party newspaper. Ambassador-Gbikpi-Benissan has described the news items as ?malicious and figment of imagination of the reporter whose hidden agenda is to prove an unnecessary quarrel between the people of Togo and their Ghanaian brothers.

|We take very strong exception to this scurrilous and tendentious unsubstantiated news report cleverly invented to create misunderstanding between Ghana and Togo,? the protest note said. The Ghanaian Ambassador to Togo, Kwabena Mensa-Bonsu, has described the incident as ?highly unfortunate and regrettable.?