Interview With Wolali Ahlijah Regarding Faure Must Go and Elections in Togo

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Protests in Togo in 2017

The following is an interview which was conducted via email with Wolali Ahlijah. Wolali is a Togolese political analyst who serves as the Director of Operations of the Togolese Civil League.

  1. Since the protests began in Togo in 2017, how has the political situation in Togo changed?

First of all, thank you for your tireless effort to shed a light on the plight of the people of Togo. The protests of 2017 have radically redefined the political landscape in Togo. We have seen the emergence of new players such as the diaspora or the active involvement of the former archbishop of Lomé in the fight for change. The aftermath of the protest has rallied more active and vocal resistance to Faure Gnassingbé. But all that has not, unfortunately, translated in a significant political gain for the political opposition. What could be an opportunity to unite has ironically created more division within the opposition and given Faure Gnassingbé less to worry about in recent months.

2. The government of Togo has been working very hard to improve its international image since the protests in 2017. Do you think that the Togolese government has been successful in this effort?

I don’t think they have been successful. The 2017 protests have highlighted the anachronistic nature of the government and exposed its ugly side as the word witnessed the violent repression. As the government is working on cleaning up its image, it is simultaneously rolling back freedom of expression and demonstration within the country. It has become more oppressive and this has caught the attention of many observers.

3. One of the ways that the government of Togo has been trying to promote a more positive image has been by highlight some of its achievements, such as attracting foreign investments from other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. This is done to give the impression that under Faure’s leadership Togo is making significant economic progress. Do any of these investments significantly impact the lives of the ordinary people in Togo and is the government seriously working to address the rampant poverty in Togo?

Beyond all the buzz, there has actually been little investment in the country by foreign investors. It is because all serious investors understand the risk and the political volatility of the country. There has been new policies put in place to attract investors and meet international standards. But the backdrop of violent multi-decade dictatorship and the deep rooted corruption have blocked any serious investment. There is no clear desire to address the root cause which are lack of accountability, impunity, political crisis. There is also no investment in social capital to support any meaningful investment strategy. In the past 15 years, the government has gone through at least 3 initiative to reduce poverty with no result. The currently much publicized PND (Program National de Development) appear more as a stunt than a real commitment to lift people out of poverty.

4. What are your thoughts on the upcoming election, especially given that the government of Togo has yet to implement real electoral reforms?

Simply put, holding elections in Togo is just another box for the government to check. There is no real commitment to the rule of law and the right of the people to choose their leader. Nothing has changed and this is more of a formality with the same people in charge. The registration process was opaque, voter suppression was in full mode, the electoral roster is unaudited, the constitutional court is led by a zealous member of the ruling party and there has been no electoral reform.

5. Since the Faure Must Go movement was founded, there have been many African nations that have been able to free themselves from dictatorial rule through mass mobilization on the part of the citizenry. Last year the Sudan accomplished this, ending Omar al-Bashir’s 30 year rule. Are these other success stories encouraging to you as you continue in the struggle for Togo’s liberation?

No two experiences are similar but we certainly draw inspiration from all popular movement in Africa and around the world. We are confident in the power of the people to bring about real change and we continue to actively work to out an end to the longest dictatorship in Africa.

6. What would you say have been some of the greatest achievements of the Faure Must Go movement thus far?

Our movement has undeniably built a strong opposition to Faure Gnassingbé. Because we are powered by the people, we have exposed the regime around the world and have rallied all voices in one simple demand, that is Faure Must Go. Change is overdue in Togo and real change is only possible when people are united and mobilize. That’s is what the Faure Must Go movement has done, creating a consensus among the people that Faure departure is the will of the people. We will continue to build on that achievement and push to gain the necessary momentum to put the government back into the hand of the citizens of Togo.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

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