Togo’s First Female Prime Minister Does Not Erase the Oppression Togolese Women Endure

In September the dictator of Togo appointed the nation’s first female prime minister, Victoire Tomegah-Dogbe. Dogbe is one of a number of women who were recently appointed to ministerial positions in Togo. Essozimna Marguerite Gnakade was named as the nation’s first defense minister. In total, women comprise of 30% of the ministerial positions in the government of Togo.

These appointments represent more of the same in Togo. For example, Gnakade is serving as head of the defense ministry, but she has no prior military experience. Her qualification is that she was the wife of Ernest Gnassingbé, the deceased brother of Togo’s current dictator Faure Gnassingbé. Under the rule of the Gnassingbé dynasty in Togo, loyalty to the dictatorship matters more than competency and qualification for the position.

The Gnassingbé government certainly is not one which has championed the rights of women. Togo is a nation where women have endured horrendous suffering at the hands of the regime. This has included rape and genital torture. In one instance, a woman who was married to a university professor in Lomé was arrested and tortured because her husband had committed the “crime” of distributing leaflets which were critical of the regime. Cases of women being punished for the actions of their husbands are not uncommon in Togo.

Togo is also a nation where women have to endure the burden of the failures of the regime, such as being forced to give birth to their babies on the hospital floor because the government hasn’t seen fit to provide enough hospital beds for these women. Women in Togo have had to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation on their babies when those babies have inhaled teargas which was fired into their homes. Women in Togo have gone so far as to engage in sex strikes to pressure their men to fight to change these miserable conditions which exist in Togo.

Recently, Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, the first woman to ever run as president in Togo, was arrested. She has been accused of endangering state security, aggravating public disorder and spreading false information. Her offense was the crime of being a political activist who dared to publicly challenge the Gnassingbé dictatorship.

The only right that women in Togo truly have is the right to go along with the oppressive regime which has ruled Togo for the last five decades. Women are expected to silently endure the suffering caused by the failures of the Gnassingbé regime. Those who dare to speak out or who are married to those who speak out are met with violent repression. The appointment of a handful of women to ministerial positions in Togo does not erase the reality that Togo is a nation where women continue to endure a great deal of suffering at the hands of Gnassingbé regime.

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.