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Gilchrist Olympio


Gilchrist Olympio (born 26 December 1936) is a Togolese politician and the President of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), the country's main opposition party.

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Created: 13th Jun 2008
Modified: 13th Jun 2008
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Gilchrist Olympio returned to Togo in July 1991 and participated in the Sovereign National Conference (Conférence Nationale Souveraine), which was in place in July-August 1991. This conference put in place a new government and a transitional parliament.

He founded the Union of Forces for Change (Union des forces pour le changement), a federation of parties, on February 1, 1992, and has headed the party since then. On May 5, 1992, his convoy was attacked in an ambush in Soudou, in the north of Togo; 12 people were killed, and Olympio himself was seriously injured, spending a year recovering in hospitals in France and the United Kingdom. An investigation by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) found that Eyadéma's son Ernest Gnassingbé was in charge of the commandos who perpetrated the attack.

Olympio rejected the choice of Edem Kodjo as the sole candidate of the Collective of Democratic Opposition (COD II) and was designated as the UFC's candidate for the August 1993 presidential election on July 23, but he was disqualified from the election for non-compliance with medical certificates. He was a candidate in the disputed June 1998 presidential election, receiving 34.10% of the vote according to official results, in second place behind Eyadéma.

Olympio claimed victory, however, and demanded that the election be held over again; he also wanted the March 1999 parliamentary election, which was boycotted by the opposition, to be held over again. He initially refused to attend the Inter-Togolese Dialogue held in Lomé in mid-1999 due to security concerns, but on July 26 he arrived in Lomé from Ghana to participate. Although the dialogue involved many political parties, Olympio demanded exclusive and direct talks between the UFC and Eyadéma's party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), regarding the 1998 election. This did not happen, and other opposition parties complained that they would be marginalized by such talks between the UFC and the RPT. Olympio consequently returned to Ghana after spending only hours in Togo.

In 2003, Olympio was again deemed ineligible to run in the June 2003 presidential election by the electoral commission on the grounds that he did not have a certificate of residency, in accordance with the constitutional requirement of 12 months residency in the country (Olympio had been living abroad), and a recent receipt of tax payments. On April 26, 2003, he returned to Togo, saying that he did not have any taxable income in Togo. Olympio appealed the electoral commission's decision to the Constitutional Court, but it ruled against him on May 6. He denounced what he described as Eyadéma's "permanent coup d'Etat".

His cousin, Harry Olympio, contested the 2005 presidential election on a ticket separate from the UFC. Olympio campaigned across the country for the UFC in the October 2007 parliamentary election, including a visit to Kara, Eyadéma's native area, on October 9, which was considered unprecedented. On election day he was reportedly exhausted and unable to vote for health reasons, leaving another to vote for him.
Biographical Information
Gilchrist Olympio
(At a Glance)
Date of Birth: Dec/26/1936
Gender: male
Interests: Art, Politique, Economie, Sport
Place of Origin: Togo
Olympio was born in Lomé and he studied mathematics and philosophy in the United States, and in the United Kingdom at the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he received a doctorate in economics. He worked at the United Nations in fiscal and financial studies from 1963 to 1964 and then as an economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 1964 to 1970 and later returned to Africa to pursue business. Entering the Togolese political opposition, he was sentenced to death twice in absentia by the regime of Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

He is the son of former President Sylvanus Olympio, who was assassinated in a 1963 coup. (source wikipédia)