Home Version française
 
News Echos of the Diaspora


Previous  Next 

TOGO - STALLED DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION

By Morten Hagen and Michelle Spearing; London, 28 November 2000
Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD)
email: morten@cdd.org.uk
website: www.cdd.org.uk


INTRODUCTION

Togo is currently at the crossroads regarding President Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s announce-ment that he will step down as president at the next presidential elections in 2003.

Currently, the political situation is dominated by co-optation, intimidation and elimination of major players of the opposition. President Eyadéma comes from a minority ethnic group called the Kabré in the north, while his foremost opposition comes from the southern-based Ewé ethnic group.

Togo's population comprises 37 different ethnic groups, but is primarily characterised by a north-south divide. The southern population is dominated by the Ewé, making up some 45% of the total Togolese population. Other ethnic groups in the south include the Mina (migrated from Ghana in the seventeenth century), the Ana (originating from Yoruba migration from south-west Nigeria into Togo from the thirteenth century onwards), the Akposso (cocoa and coffee growing people's of the Plateau region west of Atakpamé), and the Bassar (in the centre of the country). The north is populated by various ethnic groups, foremost of which are the Kotokoli and the Kabré, making up around 30% of the total population. Most of them are poor peasants inhabiting the Sokode, Baffilo and Kara region. The north is also home to the Lamba, the Losso and the Tchokossi (Muslim migrants from Cote d'Ivoire during the 18th century). The Ewé, the Mina and the Ana are considered the commercial, political and intellectual elite because, with their proximity to the coast, they profited from early contact with European merchants, and subsequently enjoyed commercial and educational advantages over the people of northern Togo with the advent of the colonial period. They were then recruited to fill skilled administrative positions required for the effective management of the colonial state.

Among the peoples of the northern part of Togo, several ethnic groups migrated from Burkina Faso during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As they moved south they intermingled with the local population. In spite of Eyadéma's proactive development policy many in the north still make their living from small-scale farming. Some Hausa speaking Fulanis (as well as Hausas) also live among the people of northern Togo.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT POLITICAL CRISIS

The land that makes up present-day Togo has a rich history, being caught between the two powerful states of Ashanti (Ghana) in the west and Dahomey (Benin) to the east. The Oyo Kingdom of south-west Nigeria reached through Dahomey into southern parts of present-day Togo at the peak of its power in the nineteenth century. However, the area of present-day Togo was largely left to itself until the end of the nineteenth century, unlike other West African countries that experienced European influence from the sixteenth century. The coastal areas of Togo, first reached by Europeans in the fifteenth century, were none-the-less utilised for slave trading through ports like Keta and Aného. In 1884, a German delegation struck a deal with a local Chief, eventually leading to the colonisation of a long tiny piece of land northwards towards River Niger. Although they never reached that far, establishing a bridgehead on the river was among the prime targets of the German colonial power.

During World War I, allied Anglo-French forces gained their first victory over German forces when they conquered Togo in 1914. After the war the country was put under control of both the UK and France as separate protectorates - the west under British administrative control from the Gold Coast (Ghana) and the east (corresponding to present-day Togo) under French administrative control as French Togoland. This division split the Ewé ethnic group, triggering Ewé nationalism and subsequent drives for unification, particularly by the Comité de l'Unité Togolaise (CUT) under the leadership of Sylvanus Olympio. Following a plebiscite in 1956, the British area was formally incorporated into the Gold Coast. France then quickly arranged an election that resulted in the establishment of French Togoland as an autonomous republic within the French Community. Fearful of Britain's intentions and of the Pan-African sentiments of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, they helped facilitate the installation of their conservative crony Nicolas Grunitzky into power in Togo from 1956. His victory was also partly enabled by an alliance between his own Parti Togolaise du Progrès and the UCPN - Union des Chefs et des Populations du Nord.

Following the collapse of Grunitzky's autonomous republic in 1958, a UN supervised election brought Sylvanus Olympio to power and he became President of the independent Republic of Togo in 1960. He strove to move his country towards international non-alignment and economic independence from France. The price was short-term national prosperity, leading to increasing popular opposition towards his regime. A fallout with Nkrumah in neighbouring Ghana, triggered by major differences over the issue of Ewé unification, led to a border-closing between the two countries and worsened economic conditions for Togo's traders in and around Lomé. An increasingly authoritarian, and effectively one-party, state under Olympio's CUT emerged from 1962, and his increasingly austere economic policies and anti-militaristic sentiment set the stage for Eyadéma's military coup d'état in January 1963.

WHY DID EYADÉMA INTERVENE?

In 1963 Eyadéma returned from the war of independence in Algeria where he and other Togolese soldiers, mostly from northern Togo, had fought together with the French against Algerian independence fighters. They were refused entry to the Togolese army because of what President Olympio saw as a betrayal of the African liberation movement. It was commonly perceived that this ban was because the soldiers came from northern Togo. With hindsight, forcing these soldiers with fresh combat experience to return to civilian life in the poor northern part of the country was a crucial mistake.

Socio-economic factors certainly contributed to the northern-led coup. The peoples of the coast and southern parts of Togo naturally made closer contact with the Europeans than the peoples of the northern part. While the predominantly Ewé population of the south adapted to the social and economic influence of the Europeans, the northern population remained hostile to European colonisation and was subsequently marginalized from development by the colonial masters. The north-south divide was consolidated during the colonial period, resulting in ethnic and socio-economic hostility and mutual resentment between the two regions. Thus the disgruntled returning soldiers found targets for their resentment among the affluent Ewé population in the south and the just as well-off returned freed slaves from Brazil.

The first stage of the military coup in 1963 saw the re-instalment of Grunitzky as President after the putschists led by Eyadéma toppled Olympio's government. One of the first actions by the new regime was to reintegrate all ex-soldiers from the war of independence in Algeria into the Togolese army, tripling the size of the army and triggering huge extra military expenditure.

Grunitsky's second period in power was marred by political cleavages, economic problems and finally by popular demonstrations in November 1966 (requiring army intervention). Eyadéma had spent four years actively building his control over the army. He quickly rose from the rank of staff sergeant to four-star general in 1976. He passively watched the slow death of the regime he had put in place in 1963. He saw the crippling of civil politicians create a power vacuum that the army could readily fill. Characteristic of Eyadéma's later style of leadership by brute force, he nonchalantly led the army in a coup on 13 January 1967, the fourth anniversary of his murder of Sylvanus Olympio in 1963. Three months after the coup in April 1967, he declared himself president, banned all political parties and ruled by decree for two years. Eyadéma's personality cult was established firmly when he walked away alive from two consecutive air crashes in 1974. Supported by the army, two personal security brigades, the paramilitary gendarmerie, and his personal presidential guard, Eyadéma seems to be able to exercise total control of the political process in Togo.

Economic decline is the Achilles heel of dictatorships. Economic decline hit Togo around 1990 as a result of bad economic management and external economic pressures. The end of the Cold War also meant that aid supplies intended to maintain geostrategic stability dried up. This undermined the regime's ability to continue its economic patronage. Co-optation didn't work so Eyadéma employed repression. As a result of economic hardship and the waning of patron-client relationships, a Togolese reform movement emerged in 1990, led by a frustrated intelligentsia. The resulting democratic boom was also influenced by the democratic surge shaking Africa, following the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. A more direct influence came from the democratic upsurge in neighbouring Benin.

Since 1990, the armed forces (including his two security brigades, the presidential guard and the paramilitary gendarmerie) have been General Eyadéma's sole means of maintaining his office. The security agency mandated to monitor subversive tendencies (Surete Nationale) is not trusted by Eyadéma as it consists largely of southern officers. Therefore, he has set up personal security apparatus, subdivided into Brigade de Recherche and Brigade de Vigilance. The official duty of the first is to gather information on potential sources of political opposition both at home and abroad. The official duty of the second is to monitor potential subversive activities, specifically in Lomé. Unofficial assignments include harassment of the opposition and extra-judicial killings or arrests.

THE ECONOMY

Togo's economy is based on the export of phosphate rock, cotton, cocoa and coffee, as well as a vibrant commercial sector. Most coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations are situated along Togo's hilly western border towards Ghana. These three export crops account for some 20% of Togo's agricultural production. The wooded savannah of the Centrale region is also fertile and extensively used for crop production. The northernmost region largely consists of dry savannah landscape suited to cattle herding. The most important export commodity is none-the-less phosphate rock from mines not far from the coast. Phosphate mining accounts for some 20% of Togo's GDP, but employs little more than 10% of the workforce. Although the price of phosphate on world markets is far from its peak of 1974, the export earnings have increased in recent years because of higher production. The same goes for cotton export.

The economy has remained quite robust over the years despite problems in other countries of the region, possibly partly due to the fact that France has provided Eyadéma with a veneer of respectability and legitimacy over the years. Lomé was successfully established with an image of an international conference centre following the first Lomé agreement between the ACP countries and Europe, signed in Lomé in 1975. France's reason for nurturing Togo's image as politically legitimate and economically viable, may have been influenced by its preoccupation with stability over democracy. This made sense during the Cold War, but after 1989, the continued unholy mixture of cultural and personal ties, as well as military and economic co-operation, is harder to justify. As the French leadership fails to recognise its share of responsibility for the protracted survival of the brutal dictatorship in Togo, the people of Togo continue to suffer.

The Togolese economy has gone through three distinct development faces since the start of the colonial period in 1884. The first expansive period came under the German colonial era (from 1884-1914) during which basic infrastructure was developed and some industrialisation introduced. The Germans aspired to develop Togo as a showcase self-sufficient colony. A plantation economy was developed in the south leading to exports of coffee, cocoa, palm products and cotton. Transportation for shipment was facilitated by the construction of Togo's first three railway lines. Education was offered to 9% of school-age children by 1914 and by 1990 some 72% attended primary school. This economy stagnated between 1920 and 1940 (between the wars). The Anglo-French partition of the colony after World War I and the global economic recession of the 1930s led to stagnation of economic development.

The second period of economic growth came after World War II when the western part of Togo was attached to the administration of the prosperous British Gold Coast, and the eastern part was boosted by French development assistance.

The third expansive phase started with the sudden boom in phosphate prices in 1974 in which world market price for phosphates increased Togo's earning from phosphate exports fivefold. Both France and Germany increased their development aid to Togo in the 1970s, and fuelled by the short-term boom in the export price of phosphate in 1974, the Togolese economy witnessed a period of growth in the late 1970s. New state and private businesses were started and, despite the authoritarian military regime, liberal economic conditions allowed cross-border trade and smuggling to continue unchecked, which spurred new economic activity and made it possible to initiate a development policy in the north for the first time.

The economic boom resulting from the high phosphate prices between 1974 and 1976 paradoxically led to economic decline following the nationalisation of major industries in Togo. The strategically important phosphate mining company Compagnie Togolaise des Mines du Bénin (est. 1957), was nationalised in 1974 after Eyadéma alleged that COTOMIB had conspired to kill him because they feared nationalisation. Nomination of managers to state enterprises was used to reward friends of the regime instead of being based on merit, resulting in inefficient management and accumulation of foreign debt. This led Eyadéma's regime to seek assistance from the IMF and the World Bank. As a result of the regime's misplaced forecast of continued high phosphate prices, Togo was left with an economy nearing collapse in the early 1980s, as well as with mounting debt and economic austerity resulting from IMF / World Bank conditionality. The structural adjustment program installed in Togo in the 1980s did however receive good remarks by the World Bank, while Togo was forced to privatise the industries that Eyadéma had borrowed money to nationalise in the first place. The following economic hardship endured by ordinary people, fuelled by growing unemployment, led to a further strengthening of the opposition forces. This drive was enhanced by a jealousy among the less well off in the south towards the people of the northern part of Togo, perceived to be favoured by Eyadéma.

Generally the liberal economic policy of Togo (notwithstanding the nationalisation drive in the mid-1970s), and the country's good reputation for adhering to conditionalities imposed by the IMF / World Bank, have contributed to Eyadéma's relatively good international relations over the years despite his brutality towards his own citizens.

Interestingly, the fall in public spending has even affected the military with spending on defence down some 20% this year. The military are among Eyadéma's closest allies, composed largely of people from northern Togo, and with key officers from his own ethnic group - the Kabré.

Despite Togo's small size with a 56 km long coastline along the Gulf of Guinea and a tiny strip of land reaching approximately 540 km inland towards the north, it attracts many tourists. Consequently, tourism is the country's third largest foreign exchange earner. The tourist trade is helped by Togo's liberal economy, plentiful tourist facilities (particularly in and around Lomé), and the scenic coastal route between Accra and Lomé. Togo has less to offer in terms of inland attractions and important historic places than Ghana or Nigeria. The tourist industry suffered severe decline during the political upheavals of the 1990s, reaching near collapse but recovering somewhat towards the end of the decade. Excessive distribution of contracts to friends of the regime has also led to over-capacity in hotel provision, leaving some new hotels virtually empty.

Transport between north and south in Togo is essentially conducted along the recently refurbished highway linking coastal Lomé and the northern border with Burkina Faso. The Trans-African Highway from Ghana through Lomé to its eastern border with Bénin is also being maintained and upgraded. As elsewhere in Africa, Togo's railway system is in need of modernisation. Togo also has a modern deep-water port, but due to social unrest during most of the 1990's as well economic problems of some of Togo's northern neighbours, the activity at the port seems to be running far below capacity.

Education

Togo's education system, initiated during the German colonial period, was remodelled on the French education system. Primary enrolment stands at around 75%. Secondary level has much lower attendance, partly due to the predominant emphasis on subjects like French language and culture, and European history, to the detriment of education in African (Togolese) languages and practical subjects like farming, primary health care etc. A substantial number of children leave school to help their families with farming (subsistence farming accounts for approximately 75% of the economy). The University of Bénin in Lomé was built in 1970 to host 6,000 students. It now struggles to accommodate some 17,000 increasingly discontent and hostile students. Overall the education sector has declined in Togo during the 1990's as a combined effect of population increase and less funding due to reduced public expenditure. Once the highest in Africa, Togo's literacy rate now stands at about 50% of the population. In this year's results of exams for 16,000 pupils throughout Togo, little more than 4,000 pupils (25%) passed. Although the Minister of Education immediately blamed sporadic strikes by teachers for the failure, the result has to be regarded as a sign of the failure of the Togolese education system.

Lack of basic infrastructure like sewage and access to drinking water and water for hygiene purposes, plus lack of basic medication and possibly under-nourishment and malnutrition, contribute to the prevalence of easily treatable disease and a high mortality rate. World Bank conditionality has also led to low public spending on health, with AIDS, tuberculosis and even measles taking their toll on an already overburdened health sector with chronic lack of doctors and nurses.

THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE

A national conference was convened on 26 June 1991 after an agreement was reached between the opposition and the government on 12 June 1991. The national conference elected Joseph Kokou Koffigoh as Prime Minister and planned new elections for June 1992. Despite the apparent strength of the opposition at the time, the fact remained that the northern-dominated army was firmly behind Eyadéma's regime.

Apart from the radical representatives of opposition groups in exile that returned to Lomé for the national conference, the conference attracted local opposition forces mainly made up of lawyers, academics and emerging business people. Prior to the national conference in 1991 there was no consensus building among opposition leaders, who all sought to promote their own narrow interest.

The main weakness among the opposition was their inability to co-operate and establish a broader national power base instead of fighting each other. They also failed to secure national support and reconciliation with Togo's main power holder - the armed forces. By pursuing a radical course - declaring the national conference sovereign, trying to change political structures by decree, keeping the armed forces out of the negotiating process - they failed to gain genuine national support.

They also threatened the clique of powerful and wealthy people that the Eyadéma regime had nurtured. Eyadéma does not rule in a civil vacuum supported only by loyal officers and soldiers. His allies in the cabinet, loyal civil servants and business people that prospered under his regime were apparently not properly recognised as power brokers that stood to lose their favourable positions if Eyadéma were to be forced out of office.

Joseph Kokou Koffigoh, the newly-elected SNC Prime Minister, proceeded to secure his own power base by appointing people from his home region to head state enterprises. This made him liable to accusations of nepotism and corrupt practices. He none-the-less enjoyed popular support among a majority of Togolese people, as well as international recognition. Regardless of such support, the Togolese army moved in to display where their main loyalty lay, showing that brute force was still superior to democratic legitimacy. With the powerful display of force applied by the army as they bombed the home of Koffigoh and arrested him, Eyadéma could once again rest assured that he still held an upper hand in the Togolese power struggle.

As a reign of terror was launched on members of the opposition, the flow of refugees crossing Togo's borders into Ghana and Bénin amounted to over 100,000, eventually totalling more than 200,000. The reign of terror unleashed by the army continued well into 1992, including an assassination attempt on Gilchrist Olympio, Eyadéma's foremost rival and long-time foe, as well as members of Koffigoh's cabinet, the Haut Conseil de la Republic who fled the country in droves to seek refuge abroad. Thus the democratic threat from the SNC soon waned, and Eyadéma gradually re-established his grip on power.

In September 1992 a new constitution was approved in a referendum, but in October 1992 troops occupied the parliament, taking all non-RPT members of the HCR hostage until they agreed to pay a ransom to the soldiers.

The reign of terror continued into 1993. Hundreds of people were reported killed in Lomé in January 1993. This triggered a further stream of refugees from Togo into Ghana and Bénin. The scheduled presidential elections in August 1993 went ahead with Eyadéma as the only candidate. Gilchrist Olympio was not allowed to stand and the other opposition candidates (among them Edem Kodjo and Yao Agboyibor) boycotted the elections.

HUMAN RIGHTS

The main reason for the deteriorating human rights situation in Togo is the protracted one-party rule of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma. During the worst periods of oppression in the 1980s, reported human rights abuses included: "arbitrary and mass arrests, imprisonment without trial, torture and liquidation while in prison." (Decalo, 1996, p.9).

The current political situation is still characterised by politics of co-optation, intimidation and elimination. According to a press release by Amnesty International, hundreds of extra-judicial killings took place in Togo in 1998 (AI, June 2000). In fact, according to an extensive report in May 1999 by Amnesty, widespread human rights violations were identified in connection with the 1998 election period, including hundreds of political killings committed during the same period. The report was a joint work by AI staff and journalists from the Ligue pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme au Bénin (LDH). On 11 April 1991 soldiers pushed a number of pro-democracy demonstrators into the Bé Lagoon of Lomé, where they drowned.

In June 1990 the former French president François Mitterand labelled Eyadéma's Togo as Africa's worst abuser of human rights. However, in November 1991, French policy towards Africa under Mitterand made a diplomatic U-turn (possibly influenced by the late Jacques Foccart and perceived French national interests). Mitterand then announced that France would not interfere in African affairs and that each country had to find its own way in democratic reforms. Subsequently, Eyadéma's cronies in the armed forces staged a coup the following month, December 1991.

According to another human rights group, the Ligue Togolaise du Droit d'Homme (LTDH), as reported by IPS news agency from Lomé on 13 August 2000: "The peaceful citizens of our cities and countryside are in constant fear of expressing their opinions and for the security of their property." LTDH also condemned Togo's regressive press law making any journalist found to insult the President, the Prime Minister, any other ministers or the Speaker of Parliament liable to months in jail. Furthermore, the Togolese government was accused of detaining citizens on the flimsiest of excuses, including arbitrary arrests and mistreatment. LTDH also quoted some sources describing the Lomé Detention Centre as "hell" and even compared the conditions with those on slave-ships in former centuries. The human rights group also criticised the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, government raids of private homes and arbitrary arrests.

Instead of seriously addressing these disturbing issues, the Togolese government has, since May 1999, systematically intimidated, threatened with death or bribed witnesses, destroyed evidence, and pursued Togolese human rights defenders and journalists without any other reason than suspicion of providing information to AI, according to the organisation's press release.

THE UN / OAU MISSION

On 7 June 2000 the UN and OAU issued a joint statement on the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the 1998 human rights violations (the extra-judicial killing of hundreds of people), a step which was immediately endorsed by AI. According to a press release on 15 September 2000 the commission, consisting of Mr. Mahamat Hassan Abakar (Chad, Chairman), Mr. Issaka Souna (Niger) and Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Brazil), will visit both Togo and the neighbouring countries to investigate these claims.

RASSEMBLEMENT DU PEUPLE TOGOLAIS - RPT

The RPT remains the active support base for Eyadéma. The RPT was established in 1969 with the advent of the Third Republic, as Togo's sole legal party to which all Togolese belonged. Attendance and participation at local RPT meetings throughout the country were thoroughly screened by the loyal members. All Togolese allowed to vote were supposed to pay an annual fee to the party. Whether liked or not, the RPT continued to play an active role in Togolese society until the advent of democratic upsurge from 1990.

The President has run the RPT as his personal party. Party officials have been active in arranging pro-Eyadéma demonstrations on visits to local communities and in propagating the Eyadéma personality cult. However, they no doubt act partly independently to prop up the regime (although influenced by patronage and Eyadéma's policy of economic support for the development of the northern part of Togo). Together with the armed forces, the loyal cadres of the RPT remain the key reason for Eyadéma's protracted reign of power. Although Eyadéma's ethnic power base has diversified over his years in power, the core ethnic support for both the RPT and the armed forces can be found among the Kabré and other ethnic groups of the northern part of Togo. The most loyal members of both the RPT, the army and Eyadéma's security forces originated directly from his core constituency in the north, most notably among his own ethnic group the Kabré (the largest ethnic group in the north).

PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE

Ambitious opposition leaders include Edem Kodjo, well-known both at home and abroad. He has been foreign minister several times, as well as finance minister, all under Eyadéma. Kodjo has also served as secretary general of OAU. His negative reputation stems from him being the brain behind the infamous Green Book, which was the intellectual background that brought about Togo's one-party system in 1969. He defends himself by saying that if so, he should be the perfect man to dismantle the structure he himself built the basis for. Various opposition movements wanted to use him as their common presidential candidate in the 1993 election, but in the last instance they turned around and boycotted Eyadéma's election, leaving Edem Kodjo without a platform to challenge Eyadéma. Kodjo's own party, Union Togolaise pour la Démocratie (UTD) participated on its own in the parliamentary elections in 1994. He was none-the-less appointed Prime Minister by Eyadéma, making it possible for him to allow exiled opposition members to return home. Kodjo's acceptance of the post as Eyadéma's Prime Minister at a time when the opposition was trying to challenge Eyadéma left Kodjo and the UTD with the mark of deceit. Kodjo did not take part in the 1998 presidential election, in which Gilchrist Olympio, leader of the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) and son of the former president Sylvanus Olympio, stood against Eyadéma. Other opposition candidates running for presidency were Yaovi Agboyibor, Léopold Gnininvi and Jacques Amouzou. All are of Ewé ethnic origin. President Eyadéma won the election allegedly after massive electoral fraud. In 1999 Edem Kodjo joined forces with other opposition leaders like Jean Sanve de Tové and Cornelius Aidam, to form the Convergence Patriotique Panafricaine (CPP) which so far has played a moderating role in trying to bring the protracted political crisis in Togo under control. Edem Kodjo has yet to announce whether he intends to run for president in 2003.

The foremost rival of Edem Kodjo within the opposition for the presidency is the lawyer Yaovi Agboyibor (57), although he shares the same political platform as Kodjo. Yaovi (Yao) Agboyibor is an ambitious politician who is devoted to bringing about democratic change based on his Comité d'Action pour le Renouveau (CAR). Yao Agboyibor is a former loyal member of Eyadéma's ruling party RPT. Agboyibor's past also includes serving under Eyadéma as the first chairman of the human rights commission called Commission Nationale des Droits de l'Homme (CNDH), established by Eyadéma in 1988, following an Amnesty International report of 1987 detailing arbitrary arrests and torture by Eyadéma's regime. As pressure for political liberalisation grew, Agboyibor resigned in 1990 and subsequently created his own political party - the CAR. By then he had gained national attention as a man who dared to take on sensitive human rights issues. Eyadéma's real intentions with the establishment of it were apparently to use CNDH as window dressing for his regime's willingness to rebuke human rights offences, try to cleans himself of the AI charges of 1987, and to put the blame for violations of human rights on interethnic conflicts among the Ewé. In 1994 the electorate trusted the CAR with 37 of the total 81 seats in the parliament.

Another contender for the throne is a 60-year old businessman called Zarifou Ayeva from the northern part of Togo, which makes him stand out from the rest of the candidates deriving from the Ewé ethnic group in the south. Ayeva originates from the north-central city of Sokodé and is of Kotokolo ethnic origin. Zarifou Ayeva, which once served as commerce minister under Eyadéma, heads the Parti Democratique du Renouveau (PDR). Ayeva and his PDR holds their strongest support in the Kotokoli heartland district of Tchaoudjo.

Yet another candidate is Professor Léopold Messan Gnininvi (58) and his party the Convention Democratique de Peuples Africaines (CDPA). Professor Gnininvi is apparently a rather soft-spoken critic of the present regime, unlike his radical opponent Agboyibor. His past includes working as a senior lecturer in Mathematics and Physics at the Université du Bénin in Lomé. His political program is focused on economic and democratic change, including rural development.

Yet another candidate for the presidency is a 63 year old businessman called Jaques Amouzou. He was one of two candidates contesting in the presidential election of August 1993, when all other opposition candidates boycotted the election.

One of the most serious contenders for the presidency is Gilchrist Olympio and his Union des Forces du Changement (UFC). His father ruled Togo from independence until 1963 when Eyadéma staged his first coup d'état. His main political problem is that he resides in Ghana since the killing of his father Sylvanus during the coup of 1963. The assassination attempt against Gilchrist during a journey through northern Togo in May 1992 did probably not make him more tempted to return from his self-imposed exile. He is an economist from London School of Economics and Oxford University, and his past work includes working for the UN and IMF. The political programme of the UFC, as that of Professor Gnininvi's CDPA, is focused on economic change, although UFC's programme implies a more radical economic restructuring as well as national unity and reconciliation. The latter is something that is in high demand in a country traditionally divided between president Eyadéma's power base in the northern part of Togo, and on the other hand the southern part of Togo dominated by the Ewé ethnic group.

CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION

During negotiations between Eyadéma's military regime and the opposition last year, a time was set for new legislative elections in March 2000. An accord was signed during a ceremony attended by the French president Jacques Chirac. Despite this commitment Eyadéma did nothing until he established a 20-member Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) on 30 June 2000. This action presumed the holding of elections within 60 days, but 30 September 2000 passed without any news on the election.

The process leading to the inauguration of the CENI was marred by delays, allegedly because of delay tactics by Eyadéma. The Comité Paritaire de Suivi (CPS), a committee of representatives from the government, the opposition and a group of EU intermediaries, was led by Eyadéma's former minister for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law - Harry Octavianus Olympio. He happens to be the cousin of the prominent opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio living in exile in Ghana.

Soon after resumption of the CPS dialogue on national reconciliation on 25 April 2000, Harry Olympio, the committee leader, had a lucky escape from an assassination attempt outside his office in Lomé on 5 May 2000. By that time it appears Harry Olympio had served Eyadéma's purpose of dividing the opposition and could be best utilised as a victim for stalling the work in progress at CPS. The minister had already fallen out with his cousin Gilchrist Olympio two years earlier when he agreed to serve in Eyadéma's government, while most of the opposition movement in Togo had come to regard him as an all-out traitor.

Prompted by Harry Olympio's survival and the subsequent suspicion of the president's security forces as responsible for the attack, Eyadéma reshuffled his cabinet on 18 June 2000, having sacked Olympio as Minister for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law on the previous day. This took place just two weeks before the newly elected members of the CENI were sworn in. Eyadéma used the sacking of Harry Olympio to install a close presidential ally - General Séyi Mémème - as Olympio's successor.

On 24 August 2000 another cabinet reshuffle took place. The 46 year old Gabriel Messan Agboyome Kodjo from the RPT, was appointed as Prime Minister by Eyadéma, replacing Eugene Koffi Adoboli, who resigned after a vote of no confidence in the parliament. The removal of Adoboli can none-the-less be seen as a need for the regime to create a scapegoat for Togo's economic problems, which mainly result from Eyadéma's misrule. The new Prime Minister Agbeyome Kodjo previously held positions as Minister of Youth, Culture and Education, and Minister of Security and Territorial Administration. He is a member of the Political Bureau of RPT and a well-known Eyadéma loyalist. His appointment should be interpreted as a step to secure the president's grip on power.

On 8 October 2000 Eyadéma made his latest cabinet reshuffle, replacing 4 ministers, namely those of Tourism; Communication; Culture, Youth and Sports; and Junior Minister for Private Sector Development. The new ministers appointed were Kossi Assimayibou, Bawa Semedo, Komi Klassou and Mrs Angele Aguigah.

THE TOGO CHANNEL

At the OAU meeting in Lomé from mid-July 2000 - a meeting sponsored by France, Libya, Nigeria and China - the Angolan government restated its claims that Eyadéma actively helped the UNITA rebels in Angola to smuggle diamonds and purchase weapons from Eastern Europe. The Angolan government had nearly achieved a boycott of the Lomé OAU summit by the countries of SADC. Because of this threat Eyadéma reluctantly had to expel 56 Angolan citizens from Lomé over possible connections with UNITA, as a gesture of good intentions towards SADC.

The UN report of sanctions busting against UNITA/Angola ('the Fowler Report') tells how under Mobutu, Zaire performed the role as trader in arms and diamonds for UNITA in northern Angola. In 1993 Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, dispatched an envoy to Lomé to approach Eyadéma about his fear of interruption of diamond export as he saw the power and influence of Mobutu in Zaire waning. Savimbi saw the need to use Togo as an insurance against such interruptions in the diamond and arms trades. UNITA's military machine needed constant supplies, and in a possible situation of faltering control over developments in Zaire, UNITA would need an emergency trader to issue legitimate end-user certificates for arms and to serve as diamond trader between UNITA and Antwerp in Belgium where the diamonds were sold.

The envoy sent to Lomé - Colonel Alcides Lucas Kangunga - was equipped with a 'passport sized packet of diamonds' to be given to Eyadéma upon his agreement to fill a possible vacuum left by Mobutu. UNITA's envoy got Eyadéma's compliance at the end of 1993 and gave Eyadéma the diamonds as a token of Savimbi's appreciation. Finally Colonel Kangunga settled in Lomé as UNITA's representative in Togo. According to the agreement Togo was awarded a 20% share of any trade.

The Togo channel was activated in January 1997 as a result of Savimbi's belief that the US had withdrawn its support for Mobutu. Subsequently, arms stored in Kinshasa and Gbadolite were transferred to UNITA bases in northern Angola. Some SAM6 anti-aircraft missiles were sent from Kinshasa to Togo in order to avoid the UN inspection team in Angola - UNAVEM - the United Nations Angola Verification Mission, established to facilitate the restoration of peace and the process of national reconciliation in Angola. As a result of Laurent Kabila's ouster of Mobutu Sese Seko from power in Zaire, Savimbi resorted to President Eyadéma as the primary supplier of arms, effectively leading to the transfer of arms flights from Eastern Europe through Togo.

CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

The Togo Channel - from 1997 - possibly helped 'finance' Eyadéma's election victory in 1998. Against the backdrop of the sudden increase in wealth generated by this illegal trade, the desperate repression applied by the regime in the last couple of years becomes easier to apprehend. The regime's violation of human rights should therefore be judged against this fact.

As one of the poorest countries of the world and with an unstable political system, Togo may be described as one of the weakest states of West Africa. As such the Eyadéma regime will continue to represent a threat not only to its own population, but also to regional stability in West Africa. At the peak of the political crisis and escalating violence with hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the borders into neighbouring Bénin and Ghana, President Rawlings of Ghana considered sending in ECOMOG forces to prevent a further escalation of the conflict towards a repetition of the Liberia conflict.

Because of Eyadéma's determination to block further democratic development in Togo, he will be personally responsible for Togo's continued escalation of economic difficulties and hampered economic prosperity. Eyadéma's outdated authoritarian style of leadership of the country as if it were his personal fiefdom, will also serve as the main obstacle for an improvement in Togo's international relations. Without support from major foreign donors, the economy will be further hampered by a continued erratic and insufficient power supply.

Ironically, Eyadéma's closest friends are found in France and Libya, both countries that pre-tend to be built on popular revolutions. The European Union (with France presently holding the presi-dency) pursues a far more progressive role towards Eyadéma's abuse of power. Libya currently strives to champion enhanced African unity. All this coincides with Eyadéma's presidency over the OAU - a dictator that relies on divide and rule politics at home.

After Mitterand's political U-turn over his Africa policy in 1993, it seems legitimate to ask whether French Africa policy once more will sleepwalk into disaster in Togo, like previously over Mobutu in Zaire in May 1997. "France had clung on to supporting Mobutu until the last, prolonging the agony and forfeiting legitimacy with the new regime; at the same time French forces were unable to save Mobutu and indeed, at the end, so irrelevant had France become that Mobutu did not even inform the French of his decision to go". (Gregory, 2000, p. 441).

Through its membership of the West African franc zone, the Union economique et monetaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA), and the Communauté économique des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (CEDEAO), Togo's protracted political crisis and economic instability continue to affect other West African countries and its immediate neighbours (Ghana and Bénin in particular). Refugees from Eyadéma's rule of terror and torture continue to seek refuge in both Ghana and Bénin, with subsequent violent incursions back into Togo. Although the Togolese armed forces could not match the military forces of Ghana, a potential suicidal mission by Togolese armed forces into Ghana will pose a great risk to West African peace and stability.

It seems to us, notwithstanding president Eyadéma's policies of 'divide and rule', that the Togolese opposition is not ready to mount a real challenge to Eyadéma's regime. The multi-plicity of opposition groups might be taken as signalling a fledgling democracy, but more likely signifies a fractured and weak opposition. A genuine national policy tailored to the development needs of the entire population is also lacking. In this regard, president Eyadéma's pro-active development policy towards the north of Togo seems more viable than the opposition parties' focus on the interests of various ethnic groups in the south. No wonder then that Eyadéma has firm control and holds critical support not only among his native Kabré ethnic group but also in the northern part of the country as a whole. No opposition party presently holds an adequate constituency in the north. Until inter-Ewé clan divisions are settled and a national platform is established, the democratic opposition seems destined to remain in opposition. That is why we find it of vital importance that the opposition forces not only re-launch the COD-2 co-operation from the early 1990s, but also make a crucial decision over whether to continue to pursue a short-term populist strategy of appealing only to the southern Ewé elite or chose to treat all citizens equally, regardless of ethnic or geographic origin, effectively paying equal attention to the people inhabiting northern Togo. The last option more than gaining national support for the opposition, may also lead to the erosion of Eyadéma's crucial power base in this area.

We share Amnesty's concern not only for those oppressed or murdered, but also for the fate of the Togolese people at large, in the run-up for the next presidential elections in 2003. Because Eyadéma has ruled single-handedly over about 40 years, a smooth transition to democracy will only be possible if the human rights situation and the current political crisis in the country are properly addressed by the Togolese government. This will be a crucial test, for the president and his party, of whether the political structures built up after independence stand on one man, or whether Eyadéma and his party have been able to establish lasting state institutions. To facilitate peaceful transfer of power to a new generation, restrictions on civil society must be lifted and multiparty democracy encouraged. Human rights have to be guarantied for all citizens, regardless of political opinions or ethnic origin.

President Eyadéma seems poised to stay in power, largely because he equates himself with the country he is pretending to represent, to the extent that he does not even trust his government ministers. Many of them were influential opposition leaders, taken onboard by Eyadéma in an effort to co-opt his most threatening enemies whilst serving as a measure to split and weaken the rest of the opposition. Symptomatic for Eyadéma's policies of co-optation, and dividing and pacifying of the opposition, he keeps hiring and firing members of the opposition interested in joining his cabinet.

Eyadéma's belief that he embodies Togo has been strengthened by assassination attempts on him, often conducted by armed rebels crossing into Togo from Ghana. He has even shifted his residence from the presidential palace, attacked in 1994 and in 1993, to the army headquarters in Lomé because of lacking night security.

Reliance on nepotism and ethnic patronage, trusting only members of his own family and close friends from the Kabré in the north of the country, strengthens the impression that Eyadéma has long since lost the distinction between himself and his country. Reliance on personal relationships and loyalties is also expressed through his personal ties to heads of state of other countries both in Africa and elsewhere.

The international sanctions towards Togo by the EU since 1993 may in fact further strengthen his feeling of being under siege. In this sense increased international pressure may actually prove contradictory, leading to further entrenchment of Eyadéma's commitment to 'stand or fall' with the destiny of Togo.

The pressures and hostilities (including armed attacks) leading up to the time of his promise to hold new legislative elections in March 2000, may have proved counter-productive in the same manner. When Eyadéma is threatened, he usually fights back in stead of giving in to pressure.

The price that civil society, the active opposition and ordinary citizens, has paid for Eyadéma's running of Togo as his personal fiefdom is beyond measure. Counting dead bodies or prisoners of conscience will only serve as an indicator of the sufferings of the people. It is tempting to describe Togo as a West African torture chamber, where all concerns other than protecting the regime, as expressed by Eyadéma's personal security concerns, are perceived as irrelevant.

In light of this analysis, the fate of his victims and Eyadéma's appalling human rights record in general may be seen as an unacceptable but necessary and unavoidable price to pay. Use of repression and brute force to deal with popular demands for political liberalisation may backfire and lead to a spiral of violence, triggering the need for the foreign intervention force that President Rawlings considered using during the worst fighting between the opposition and the regime in 1990s.

Against this background of protracted political crisis, the upcoming elections are both a sign of hope and uncertainty.

REFERENCES:

· Africa South of the Sahara 2000: Togo. London: Europa Publications Ltd, 1999.
· Africa Today: Country Surveys: Togo. London: Africa Books Ltd, 1996.
· Country Report: Togo, Benin. London: The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.
· Samuel Decalo: Historical Dictionary of Togo. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press Inc, 1996.
· Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara: Togo. New York: Charles Schribner's Sons (imprint of Simon & Schuster Macmillan), 1997.
· The Europa World Yearbook 2000: Togo. London: Europa Publications Ltd, 2000.
· Robert R. Fowler: Report of the panel of experts on violations of Security Council sanctions against UNITA. United Nations: New York, 10 March 2000.
· Ebow Godwin: Togo - After Eyadéma, who? London: New African, July/August 2000.
· Ebow Godwin: Controversy over Olympio's 'assassination attempt'. London: West Africa, September/October 2000.
· Shaun Gregory: The French military in Africa: past and present. African Affairs, Vol.9, No.396, July 2000.
· John R. Heilbrunn: Togo - The National Conference and Stalled Reform. in J. F. Clark & Gardinier, D. E. (eds.): Political Reform in Francophone Africa. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997.
· Afeto Kuma: Prime Minister Forms New Cabinet. Lome: Panafrican News Agency, 9 October 2000.
· New African Yearbook: Togo. London: IC Publications, 1999.
· Togo: Rule of terror. London: Amnesty International, 5 May 1999.
· Togo: Truth and justice demanded for victims. London: Amnesty International, June 2000.
· Togo Gets New Prime Minister. Lagos: Vanguard, September 1, 2000.
· Noel Tadegnon: RIGHTS-TOGO: Local Group Reports Deteriorating Rights Situation. Lomé: IPS, 13 August 2000.
 

By Morten Hagen and Michelle Spearing; London, 28 November 2000.

For further information on this and all other briefings, please contact
the Research & Advocacy Department of CDD.
12 The Leathermarket, Weston Street
London SE1 3ER
Telephone: +44 20 7407 0772, Fax: +44 20 7407 0773
e-mail: morten@cdd.org.uk or michelle@cdd.org.uk or amusah@cdd.org.uk


Suggestions or remarks to diastode@diastode.org