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Soldiers Begin Returning To Barracks, New Government Announcement Delayed

December 4, 1991

LOME, Togo (AP) _ Soldiers loyal to ousted ruler Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema withdrew today from a broadcast station, a day after forcing the fledgling civilian government to share power by assaulting the prime minister’s office.

At least 17 people, including Eyadema’s half-brother, died in the attack on the prime minister’s oceanside palace that followed the military’s fourth coup attempt since August.

Eyadema, a former president, was stripped of all but his ceremonial powers in August after widespread unrest and strikes. A national conference then named Joseph Koffigoh as prime minister of an interim government.

After Tuesday’s attack, Koffigoh went on national television to announce his ″surrender.″ A radio report said he and Eyadema agreed to form a coalition government and had ordered the troops back to their barracks.

But today Koffigoh said he needed some time to put together a government the soldiers would accept.

″Please give me some to reorganize. I even lost my address book in the battle,″ Koffigoh said in a telephone interview.

Most of those killed in the palace attack were soldiers from the 60 French- trained guards protecting the government headquarters, said hospital sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

France, the country’s former colonial ruler, and the United States condemned Tuesday’s assault.

Koffigoh today denied that soldiers forced him to appear on television to announce a new government in the West African nation, saying the situation left him no choice. He said he spent the night at his private residence.

Meanwhile, soldiers withdrew from the national radio station, which they seized last Thursday following two days of clashes between supporters of the president and the civilian government.

It was not clear whether other withdrawals from the capital would follow, but some soldiers remained at the prime minister’s palace.

Seventy percent of the military comes from Eyadema’s Kabye tribe.

Rebel soldiers attempted a coup last week in which at least 23 civilians were killed, but backed down when it appeared French troops might intervene.

France had sent 300 troops to neighboring Benin, saying they could intervene to protect French citizens and the democratic process.

But after Eyadema said he opposed intervention, and promised the coup attempt would be resolved peacefully, France declined to intervene.

The French government on Tuesday declined to comment on whether Tuesday’s attack would change that position.

Koffigoh’s supporters have portrayed the crisis in Togo as a test of democracy in Africa.

In the past two years, 21 African governments have been forced by unrest, civil wars and Western aid cutoffs to agree at least in principle to permit multiparty democracy.

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