“For me, the restrictions under COVID-19 bring back childhood memories of growing up under the military regime in Togo: of parents rushing home by 7pm to avoid the patrols; of one of my cousins suffering brain damage after violating the curfew; of hearing stories of soldiers terrorising civilians, robbing homes and businesses, and engaging in rape and murder. I remember being told that we ought to thank President Gnassingbé Eyadéma for maintaining peace and stability, even as tens of thousands of people fled the country.” -Farida Nabourema
A recent report from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation index claims that Togo is one of the most secure and safe countries in Africa. An article from Togo First which reported on this index stated:
Despite an overall “concerning” slowdown in the region, Togo has progressed in terms of good governance in the past 10 years. The country ranked 25th on the latest Mo Ibrahim Foundation index published on November 16.
In the past 10 years the world has witnessed the government of Togo unleash the military on its citizens, torture and kill political activists, shut off the internet in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression, amend the constitution to provide the president with immunity for any offenses committed while in office, and spy on its citizens. There is also the fact that elections in Togo still are not free and fair. Where is the progress in terms of good governance? More importantly, who is Togo safe and secure for? It is certainly not safe for political prisoners who endure torture at the hands of the regime.
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This attempt to to legitimize the government of Togo on the part of certain international actors is not new. In 2012, Hillary Clinton, who was then serving as Secretary of State, visited Togo and spoke about the “democratic gains” that were being made. Keep in mind that in 2012, the government of Togo still had not reinstated presidential term limits. The issue is that this perception of progress in Togo is built on the violent suppression of those who say otherwise. Whenever the people of Togo rise up in protest against the miserable conditions which the government forces them to live in, the government sends the military to indiscriminately shoot at and kill civilians, which even includes children. The people of Togo are terrorized into silence, which helps to give the impression that more progress is being made in Togo than actually is the case.
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The regime in Togo is also one which has used the recent Covid-19 pandemic as a justification for meting out even more brutality among its citizens. Did the Mo Ibrahim Foundation index factor this into its analysis of Togo being safe and secure? Did the Mo Ibrahim Foundation index consider citizens of Togo who have been brutalized by security forces for violating the curfew?
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Given the brutalities that the Togolese people have had to suffer and endure for the last five decades, it is insulting that any foundation would praise Togo as being one of the safest and most secure nations in Africa. In 2017, the government of Togo held a religious ceremony to appease the spirits of those that had been killed by the regime in the past. Rather than actually punishing those responsible for the killings, the killers go free without facing any sort of justice. Meanwhile, the government of Togo apparently cleared its conscience enough through that religious ceremony so that it can continue on killing and brutalizing anyone in Togo who dares to challenge the dictator.
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.