The 8th Francophone Summit will be held in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
this September 3rd to 5th, 1999. Regrouped will be 52 heads of state and
government. Most of these leaders are dictators who have desecrated the
most elementary of human rights and democracy. With total impunity, they
have committed innumerable violations of human rights. First in this gruesome
line-up is General Gnassingbé Eyadema, in power for the last 32
years in Togo.
Eyadema is one of the most infamous of the group because the first post
colonial, military coup d’état of 1963 was in Togo during which
he had the first elected president, Mr. Sylvanus Olympio, assassinated.
Four years later, Eyadema took power after a second coup d’état
instauring himself as president who persists until today. This long reign,
which makes it the oldest military dictatorship in Africa, has survived
with a ferocious one-party system. It has the largest standing army per
capita of any African country. This oversized army is tribalized with more
than 80% of the soldiers from the region where Eyadema was born.
This regime has benefited from considerable bolstering of certain western
courntries, notably France, birthstone of the Francophonie. Until the early
90s, Togolese were obliged to live under the terror of the general who
calls himself “the Father of the Nation”. Those who dared to reclaim even
a little bit of freedom and democracy were quickly killed, thrown into
prison or exiled.
Since 1990, in part due to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of
the Cold War, Togolese citizens have been rebelling openly against the
reign of General Eyadema. In 1991, various populous movements have obliged
the dictator to accept the principle of political pluralism. A National
Conference, called for this reason, adopted a new constitution. Unfortunately,
this period was short lived. Profiting from divisions amongst the democratic
parties and after numerous assassinations and acts of intimidation carried
out by the army and police, Eyadema once again took exclusive control of
Several western countries like the United States, Canada and notably
the European Union, with the exception of France, have suspended their
cooperation with Togo. For the European Union, the re-establishment of
its cooperation was dependant on the reintroduction of the democratic process.
It was heavily involved in the organization of the last presidential election
of June, 1998. However, during the polling of the first votes, the democratic
opposition appeared to be heading towards certain victory. The Minister
of the Interior confiscated the tally of the votes and announced the re-election
of the General Eyadema.
In their mission report, official observers from the European Union,
present at the elections, stated that democracy was completely high-jacked
and that the popular will of the people was not respected.
It is considered that after this bleak period of one party rule, Togo
has still not succeeded in escaping the terrible hold of this dictatorship
disguised as a “semi-democratic fallacy”. Not only is the governmental
media in a role of illegitimatizing its citizens, but, human rights are
deeply disturbing with endless formal accusations of extrajudiciary arrests,
tortures, assassinations and disappearances of individuals. Various human
rights organizations estimate the number of dead since 1990 to be more
than a thousand; victims of Eyadema’s reign of terror.
Moreover, even with those responsible for these violations indexed and
identified by name, the Togolese authorities are extremely lax in bringing
them to justice. In 1998, the U.S.A. published its findings in the State
Department’s report on human rights in Togo. The findings of the International
Federation League of Human Rights were published in May, 1999 with the
title “Togo: State of Terror”. Both find the situation deeply disturbing.
One only has to read the open letter from the Secretary General of Amnesty
International, Pierre Sané to the French president during his last
visit to Togo in 1999 to be convinced. In his letter entitled “It’s Time
To Be Accountable.” Sané dramatically outlines the situation of
human rights in Togo.
It is this type of dictator, as well as others, that Canada is ready
to welcome soon to the Francophone Summit. The Canadian Togolese Community
(CTC) profoundly regrets that the Canadian government, torn between its
international responsabilities and its moral principles for which it is
reputed, finds it impossible to restrict access to its own territory to
murderous tyrants. Heads of state who are directly or indirectly responsible
for countless and atrocious human rights violations in their respective
countries. We call on the Canadian population to denounce, by all means,
the anachronous arrival of these dictators on Canadian soil.
Since the official theme for the summit is youth, we invite the universities
and youth organizations to denounce the presence of dictators who are killing
the youth of their own countries. The CTC demands that the question of
human rights be written into the agenda for the Francophone Summit. In
the future, no agreement due to protocol, diplomacy or any other reason
excuses the government of granting visas to individuals who, physically
or morally, are guilty of human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
Ottawa (Ontario) Canada, August 27, 1999
For the Canadian Togolese Community
Dr Laté Lawson-Hellu, President.