Faure Gnassingbé’s Bid for a Fourth Term is an Insult to Togo’s Democracy
Elections are due to be held in Togo next year and President Faure Gnassingbé will no doubt attempt to run for a fourth term. Last week thousands of Togolese protesters assembled in Nigeria to demand an end to 52 years of dictatorship. Faure has been the president of Togo since seizing power in 2005.
In 2017, when the massive protests against Faure began in Togo, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo explained that Faure had nothing left to offer the people of Togo. Obasanjo stated:
I believe whatever he (Faure Gnassingbé) has to do in terms of development, whatever ideas he has, he must have exhausted them by now, unless he has something new that we do not know.
Two years later Faure has yet to demonstrate anything new in terms of development. The fact is that Faure has never actually had any real ideas for Togo. Faure’s only qualification for being president of Togo is that he is the son of Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the previous dictator. Aside from that, Faure’s entire presidency has essentially been a violation of Togo’s constitution. When Eyadéma died, legally the speaker of the parliament should have been president. Instead, the military moved to put Faure in power, which was a clear violation of Togo’s constitution.
International pressure eventually forced Togo to hold a presidential election in 2005. The election resulted in hundreds — some estimates stating more than 1,000 — Togolese being killed. Also keep in mind that in 1992 a constitutional referendum established a two-term limit for the president. This was later amended so that Eyadéma could run for more terms after his two terms were finished. Despite the protests and demands of the Togolese people, the term limits of the 1992 constitution were not re-instated.
After continued pressure, the government of Togo decided this year to re-instate term limits. The problem with this is that the term limits do not apply retroactively, so Faure is still free to run for two more terms, meaning that he can remain president until 2030. Moreover, these constitutional reforms do very little to ensure that future elections in Togo are fair and free. There is not much to prevent Faure from rigging the next two elections, or resorting to his usual methods of violence to deal with protesters and political activists. The reality of the situation is that there is not amount of reforms that Faure can make to correct the situation so long as he remains president of Togo because Faure’s presidency is an illegitimate one and always has been.
Since 2005, Faure has continued to undermine the democratic process in Togo to maintain himself in power. Faure has recently implemented certain reforms due to the pressure that his regime has been facing, but Faure’s very presidency undermines Togo’s democracy for the fact that Faure was never properly elected as president by the people of Togo. The very circumstances through which Faure came to power was a violation of Togo’s constitution and Faure continues to violate the constitutional rights of the Togolese people by denying them the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of press. Therefore, it would be an insult to democracy in Togo and to the constitution of Togo for Faure to even consider running for a fourth term.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.