Togo Swears In Former Leader's Son

Faure Gnassingbe (search) was sworn in as president of Togo (search) on Monday, two days after the death of his father — Africa's longest-reigning leader — despite international criticism that the son's accession violated the country's constitution.

Hours after longtime ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema's (search) death Saturday, the military put Eyadema's 39-year-old, U.S.-educated son in power in a move that drew sharp criticism from around the world for contravening the constitution, which stipulates the parliament speaker succeeds the president.

In an extraordinary session Sunday, the 81-member national assembly overwhelmingly approved Gnassingbe as speaker by a vote of 67-14, then voted to change a constitutional amendment allowing him to fulfill his father's term, which expires in 2008.

Western diplomats in Lome boycotted the brief, 15-minute swearing-in ceremony, although diplomats from Libya, Egypt, Congo and Gabon and members of parliament were present.

Gnassingbe raised his right hand to swear the oath "solemnly promising to protect the sanctity of Togo's constitution."

Earlier, hundreds of students tried to march to the city center to disrupt the ceremony, but were blocked by security forces.

Afterward, Gnassingbe he took a group picture with members of the constitutional court and shook hands with members of the diplomatic corps who showed up, thanking each of them.

The army move and the parliament's endorsement reflected the determination of Eyadema's minority Kabye ethnic group (search), which dominates the army, to hold onto power along with ruling party members who have benefited from decades of Eyadema's patronage.