The people of Togo, represented by 14 political parties in a coalition, have since August 2017, made it clear to their President, Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema, who succeeded his father, the older Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in office in 2005, after ruling Togo with an iron fist for 38 years that, they cannot live with the open-ended presidential term of office smuggled into the Togolese constitution.
Since then, the coalition has held marches almost every week against the regime, in protest of bad political governance, insecurity, human rights abuse and general decay in that country, and have called for Gnassingbe to step down to end the more than 50-year rule of the country by his family. Unfortunately, the protests have left about 16 people dead and several hundreds injured or languishing in detention.
Early this week, a meeting between the government and the opposition coalition took place in Lome Togo, under the auspices of the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. It was aimed at finding a lasting solution to the political impasse. It ended without addressing the vexed issue of restoring term limits to the Togolese presidency.
A quick gain was however, recorded on the rule of law and human rights front, with the release of some forty-five (45) out of the ninety-two (92) persons detained officially in the country’s prisons as a result of their involvement in the protests, with a promise by the government to do more in upholding the human rights of her citizens.
In his intervening speech at the dialogue, President Akufo-Addo was highly diplomatic. He made it very clear that the solution to Togo’s problems was that of the Togolese to find, insisting that, “I don’t have a position in this matter. Despite all the links between us (Ghana and Togo), I am not a Togolese and, therefore, I cannot have a position in this matter. I can only assist in bringing about, hopefully, a durable solution to the problems of your country.”
French and Chinese factors:
Much as I agree with our President and congratulate him on his efforts to help our neighbours, there are certain developments that must be challenged upfront in the 21st Century democratic Africa that we seek to build. One of them is dictatorship, be it De jure or De facto.
Also, we cannot shy away from calling a spade a spade. Political governance in Togo is very bad; with cascading effect on the economic growth and development of that country which remains one of the poorest in the world, even though it has great potential for economic transformation, if it gets to travel the path of good governance.
Like in many of the French speaking West African countries, France, the former colonial master of Togo, has remained loyal, supportive and manipulative of the Gnassingbe dynasty to protect and expand its economic influence and interests. It is believed by some political watchers that it would take Paris and Paris alone to get the Togolese regime to change course.
In recent years Chinese investment in Togo has increased in leaps and bounds, and reportedly to the discomfort and annoyance of France, sometimes. While the Chinese factor complicates the situation, it is not time for despair. The external factors must be recognised and taken into account in the process of negotiating a lasting settlement.
First, the Togolese military must accept and learn to live without arrogating to themselves the role of “King Maker” to the presidency. They must not allow themselves to be used to crackdown, molest and intimidate citizens of Togo legitimately engaged in asserting their rights.
Secondly, President Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema, must negotiate his exit with the military, French and the Chinese and submit a roadmap to all stakeholders with term limit to the presidency on the front burner, as the way to build confidence in the future of politics in Togo. He may take wise counsel from former South African President, Thabo Mbeki. Certainly not from the immediate past President, Jacob Zuma.
Thirdly, President Akufo-Addo and his team of facilitators must be given the needed support from the region to the continent and indeed the world at large. Attaining peace in one small country called Togo in West Africa would be a great contribution to world peace. We must all help to make it possible.
The Last Uprising
…with William DOWOKPOR