- STALLED DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION
By Morten Hagen
and Michelle Spearing; London, 28 November 2000
Democracy & Development (CDD)
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
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT
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
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
Against this background of protracted
political crisis, the upcoming elections are both a sign of hope and uncertainty.
· 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
· Shaun Gregory: The French
military in Africa: past and present. African Affairs, Vol.9, No.396, July
· 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
By Morten Hagen and Michelle Spearing; London, 28 November 2000.
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