St. Kitts & Nevis and Togo: The Challenge of Building Effective Pan-African Solidarity
St. Kitts and Nevis recently established diplomatic relations with Togo. This move is part of the twin island federation’s effort to establish closer ties to Africa. The ministers at this meeting also discussed the possibility of signing a mutual visa waiver agreement between the two countries. As a Pan-Africanist I would normally support any initiatives that are intended to bring the African descendants in the Caribbean closer to those in Africa, but this latest development only demonstrates that we still have much work to do before building effective Pan-African solidarity between those in the diaspora and those on the motherland.
Togo is a nation that has been ruled by a dictatorship for the last five decades. In August of last year the people of Togo began protesting for an end to this dictatorship. The government of Togo responded by viciously cracking down on the protesters. A human rights report that was released in February of this year noted that more than 100 people had been killed since the protests began in August, and that thousands more were wounded and displaced by the crisis. Many more have been killed, wounded, and displaced since February. The situation in Togo is so severe that Habia Ayao Nicodeme, a Togolese opposition leader, has been carrying out a hunger strike in front of the Ghanaian Embassy in Togo to demand that the political prisoners in Togo be released. Political prisoners in Togo are not only imprisoned in inhumane conditions, but are subjected to torture as well.
All of this has been going on in Togo with little attention from the rest of the world. This is why it is so troubling that St. Kitts and Nevis would seek to establish diplomatic ties with a country that is under the domination of a dictatorship. Doing so only helps to legitimize Faure Gnassingbe’s government, despite the fact that Faure was never democratically elected by the Togolese people in a fair and free election. In 2005, more than 500 people were killed due to electoral related violence in Togo. This is the type of brutality that has been unleashed against the Togolese people time and time again over the past 51 years.
In the past Caribbean governments were very vocal in their support of countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Angola as those countries struggled against colonialism and apartheid. Caribbean governments have been less vocal in their opposition against African dictators, however. Effective Pan-African solidarity means that people of African descent around the world must support each other and speak out when see each other being oppressed. It would have sent a very powerful message if the government of St. Kitts and Nevis decided to speak out against the human rights abuses that are being carried out by the government of Togo, but instead the government of St. Kitts and Nevis has opted to establish diplomatic relations with the oldest dictatorial regime in Africa.
St. Kitts and Nevis is not alone in its treatment of the regime in Togo. Institutions such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which are meant to help foster unity and integration in Africa, have done little to help resolve the crisis in Togo. In fact, one of Habia Ayao Nicodeme’s complaints was that ECOWAS was not doing enough to help resolve the situation. He stated: “For the image and the credibility of the ECOWAS they have to put pressure on Fuare Gnassingbe because they can’t rule Togo for 50 years and if one person will not respect the ECOWAS that’s enough damage to their integrity and no one will respect them anymore.” Pan-Africanism should not mean that we ignore dictatorships for the sake of unity, whether it is unity among African states or unity between African and Caribbean states.
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.