Togo’s Covid-19 Prevention Plan: Killing Citizens Before the Virus Does So

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An example of the type of violence which is regularly inflicted on the people of Togo by the security forces.

Last month I read an article from Togo First which mentioned that Togo had a 60% recovery rate among those who were infected with Covid-19. My reaction to that story was that it is great that more than half of those who were infected were able to recover, but Gueli Kodjo Djifa was beaten so horribly by the security forces in Togo that he died from his horrific injuries; he did not recover. He allegedly violated the curfew, so the security forces in Togo took it upon themselves to kill him before Covid-19 got the chance to try. On another occasion, an elderly woman was very brutally tortured by the security forces.

The mentality of some of these African governments seems to be that they are willing to kill their own citizens before Covid-19 does so. This is why in Nigeria last month, the security forces killed more citizens during enforcement of the curfew than the actual virus itself did. The logic behind using deadly force against ordinary citizens in the name of protecting those very citizens is so absurd that it would be laughable if not for the serious suffering which African governments had decided to inflict upon their own people. Marius Kothor recently published an article which addressed the abuse that women in Togo have endured since the curfew was imposed. Kothor writes:

Since the declaration of the state of the emergency last month, women have been documenting the abuses they have suffered at the hands of government forces. 10 days after the curfew was implemented, a 65-year-old woman was severely beaten by soldiers on her way to use an outhouse at night. In a video published on a Togolese news website, the woman displays her wounds and answers questions about the attack. In doing so, she uses her body to testify to the violence inflicted on her. Similarly, in a WhatsApp audio note, an unidentified woman spoke out against the violence perpetrated by government forces in the village of Komea in the northern region of the country. In another voice recording circulated on WhatsApp, a woman who identified herself as a merchant working near the Ghana-Togo border in the capital city, Lomé, recounted how government forces were extorting money from traders and physically assaulting the ones who were unable to pay.

State violence against women in Togo is not systematically documented. Yet, as Togolese activist, Farida Nabourema, explains in a recent essay, moments of crisis in the country are often accompanied by increased state violence against women. Yet, as Mama Taméa and others have shown, Togolese women refuse to be silent about the violence they face at the hands of the government.

In the essay mentioned above, Farida Nabourema writes:

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.

Covid-19 is a very dangerous virus, but the last five decades of Togo’s history has demonstrated that the security force in Togo is no less dangerous and no less deadly. The curfew which was implemented in Togo is justified on the grounds of protecting citizens from the spread of the virus, but in reality this curfew merely means that citizens now have the worry that the security forces might debilitate or even kill them before the virus does so.

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.

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

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