LOME, Togo – A strike shut down the main market and other businesses in the capital Tuesday, a day after the son of Togo's (search) longtime leader was sworn in as his successor in a move criticized by other nations as unconstitutional.
The strike was called by opposition parties. On Monday, security forces turned back hundreds of protesting students who had tried to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony of Faure Gnassingbe (search).
Gnassingbe's father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema (search), died of a heart attack Saturday. Hours later, the military installed Gnassingbe, although the constitution stipulates the parliament speaker was next in line for the presidency.
On Sunday, the national assembly approved Gnassingbe as speaker by a vote of 67-14, then voted to change the constitution to allow him to fulfill his father's term, which expires in 2008.
Opposition to the succession also grew abroad, underlining the eagerness of many on this continent to put the old days of dictatorship behind them and embrace democracy.
The African Union, which had condemned the move, threatened unspecified sanctions if constitutional rule was not quickly restored.
"Togo is not a hereditary monarchy, so the army and parliament have no right to impose the son of president Eyadema on the people," welder Emmanuel Akwetey said at his home in Lome. "We have to let them know that we disagree with this, we are protesting."
The protest was remarkable, given Togo's history of repression under Eyadema, who claimed sole control of the West African nation of 5.5 million in 1967 after taking a leading role in what was sub-Saharan Africa's first postcolonial military coup four years earlier.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) expressed concern the transfer of power did not fully respect the constitution, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday.
French President Jacques Chirac (search) spoke Sunday to African leaders and "made it known that the time of military coups d'etat is finished in Africa," said his defense minister, Michele Alliot-Marie. The French foreign ministry pressed for the quick organization of free, democratic elections.
In Lome on Tuesday, textile merchant Seydou Kone sat outside his store saying he would not open for fear of looting, but there were no signs of violence. Most government offices and commercials bank opened as usual.
Information Minister Piteng Tchalla accused opposition leaders of exploiting Eyadema's death in a statement he read on national television late Monday.
"At a moment when we are mourning the death of the former head of state Gnassingbe Eyadema, it is ridiculous and inhumane that some opposition leaders are calling for a strike action when they should be expressing their sympathies for the deceased."