The Head of State of the Republic of Togo, President Gnassingb? Eyad?ma, has confirmed the widely held view that Ghana, during the regime of the Provisional National Defence Council, led by then Chairman Jerry John Rawlings, was deeply involved in the 23 September 1986 armed attack on Lom?, the Togolese capital, as well as other terrorist acts against Togo.
Speaking to visiting Ghanaian journalists at his official residence last weekend, President Eyad?ma, explained that on that fateful day at about 3am, a group of mercenaries, including some Ghanaians, crossed the Aflao border into Togo and attacked various strategic points in Lom?, but they failed.
?They came from that side of the border,? he said, apparently referring to Ghana?s border with Togo. According to President Eyad?ma, earlier, on 15 October 1970, some of his political opponents, including Gilchrist Olympio, who was at one time domiciled in Ghana, recruited white mercenaries to attack Togo.
He said that a day before, the attackers, who were very well armed with sophisticated weapons, would strike, he was alerted and so they took precautionary steps and nipped the planned attack in the bud.
The plan failed, he proudly said. Citing another instance, President Eyad?ma said between the 8 and 10 August 1985 opposition forces who were against a planned visit by the Pope, as they feared it would raise his and Togo?s image, began a series of bomb explosions in Lom?, and attacked the Palace of Congresses, leading hotels and other structures in the capital.
?How can someone who calls himself a democrat organise armed attacks against the very people he claims to protect?? President Eyad?ma asked. Again, he said, on 24 and 27 March 1993, his own villa, Inter-Arms Regiment Headquarters, was attacked with automatic weapons.
?The pockmarks can still be seen today,? he said. According to him, in that attack three of his own top military officers were killed, but the attackers failed.
Then on 4 January 1994, the Togolese President said, he was with Kofi Koffigoh, the Prime Minister of the Togolese Transitional Government, when armed assailants entered Togo and fired at the Column de Pare, destroying the national monument of peace, and set off bomb explosions at strategic points in the capital city.
President Eyad?ma said by the grace of God, he mobilised reinforcements, and sent the attackers fleeing. He told the journalists: ?So these are the people who plunder the economy and kill innocent children.?
?I tell you something. When the former President of Ghana (Jerry John Rawlings) was in power he invited me to a cocktail party in my honour. At the party I met some opposition leaders (including John Kufuor, now Ghana?s President). But here in Togo, if I invite the opposition they won?t come,? President Eyad?ma observed.
The Togolese leader disclosed that since John Kufuor came to power relations between their two countries have improved. One of the reasons for this development, he explained, is that he and President Kufuor share the same views, namely that neighbours should live in confidence, peace and security.
He went on, saying, ?This type of relationship should not exist only between heads of state, but among the people.? He was full of praise for the various invaluable efforts made by President Kufuor at good neighbourliness.
?Our people need development, peace, security and sound health. One finger alone cannot clean the plate, but all the fingers must be at work and that is why all Africa must unite to form a formidable force,? President Eyad?ma philosophized.
He said it was geared towards that direction that they fought for the creation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). ?If this was not done before us, we have a responsibility to do it. We are independent countries, but it is not good for Anglophone and Francophone to live apart.
The people want to interact, commune together and engage in free trade,? he underscored.
Relating the creation of ECOWAS, the Togolese President said as far as 1972, he and former Nigerian President, Yakubu Gowon, discussed extensively the possibility of the two blocs coming together for the economic development of their people.
He said they first created a group of experts to go round the sub-region and map out modalities for the establishment of ECOWAS, emphasising that differences in language should not form a barrier, and thus in May 1975, ECOWAS was born.
President Eyad?ma expressed his concern about the spate of rebellions, civil wars and other terrorist acts in the sub-region, adding that these were happening because ECOWAS member states had failed to respect a Non Aggression Accord they reached on 22 April 1978.
According to him, under this accord, no ECOWAS member state is permitted to mount attacks against its neighbours. ?We would not have had this plethora of conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and now Cote d?Ivoire,? he lamented.
He called on all member states of the ECOWAS to respect the accord, saying, ? because when there is war or civil strife it is our population that suffers the consequences, people are killed, maimed, others become refugees and displaced persons.?
?We must do all we can to preserve peace for our people so that they can live in security,? he emphasized. In a related issue, President Eyad?ma disclosed that he had held discussions with President Kufuor about the eventual opening of the Ghana-Togo border on a 24-hour basis soon.
He explained that the delay on their part to do this soon did not mean they had not concretised their relationships.
?Before we open, we have to allow our experts to work out the modalities. We are trying to harmonise the working relationships between our customs officers, immigration and border patrols, so that together we can cooperate to track down smugglers and hardcore criminals who make life difficult for our people,? he explained.
President Eyad?ma said they want the ordinary people to benefit from their good relationships. He said since the arrival of President Kufuor, his presence has symbolized the liberation of Ghanaians, giving them the opportunity to move freely with their Togolese brothers and sisters.
?Thank God, we now have real integration between our friends and brothers in Ghana. This is what we want, that they should move freely to engage in their commercial activities,? President Eyad?ma.