Two Years Later: What Have the Protests in Togo Achieved?
Today marks two years since massive protests in Togo began. The aim of these protests was to put an end to five decades of dictatorial rule. Although Faure Gnassingbe still remains president of Togo, the last two years of struggle in Togo have brought about some advances towards the goal of ending dictatorship in Togo. The main achievement of the protest is that it helped to expose the regime. In a previous article I discussed the effort that dictators in Africa often to go in order to create a cult of personality. The Gnassingbe regime in Togo is a classic example of this.
Over the last two years Faure has been exposed in a way that has clearly made him uncomfortable. This is why complained in 2017 about how the protesters were using technology to depict him as a bloody dictator. Faure came to power as a bloody dictator and has remained in power as a bloody dictator, but for much of that time he was able to present a democratic image of himself to the international community. Now, Faure is so desperate to recapture that image he has gone so far as to hire an American firm to help rehabilitate his image among the international community.
In other to help restore its image, the government of Togo has also been forced to create political changes as well. Togo now has presidential term limits. The new term limits are not retroactive, so Faure can remain in power until 2030. There are other provisions that were included to protect Faure from facing justices for his crimes against the Togolese people after his presidency is over, so the constitutional changes are not a complete victory for the Togolese people. Despite this, the implementation of any sort of term limits in Togo at all is a testament to the type of pressure that the protests have placed on the regime.
A two term limit for the Togolese president was a provision of the 1992 constitution, but this provision was removed in 2002 so that Gnassingbe Eyadema could run for another term. Presidential term limits is something that Togolese have been demanding for several years now, but in the past the government refused to restore these term limits. The protests created a situation where Faure could not longer ignore the demands for presidential term limits. The pressure placed on Faure as a result of the protests has also forced Togo to hold the first local election in the country in more than 30 years.
Despite this, the struggle for Togo’s liberation is still far from finished. Faure is looking to remain in power until 2030, which is unacceptable. As I have written before, the fact that Faure is even seeking another term is itself a violation of Togo’s constitution considering that Faure became president illegally in the first place. Faure was never democratically elected in a proper election, so his presidency is an illegtimate one by the standards of Togo’s own constitution. There is also the issue of electoral reforms. Togo has yet to implement electoral reforms which would ensure fair and free elections, which almost guarantees that Faure is assured two more terms if he were allowed to run.
The people of Togo have suffered long enough under Faure’s regime, so waiting until 2030 until Faure’s term ends is not an option. As Farida Nabourema explained: “When you are oppressed, every second you wait to take action against your oppression is too long. Never wait to fight for your right as there is no better time than the moment you acknowledge your abuse to take a stance against it. So, no! We cannot wait for 2020, 2019, 2018 or tomorrow.” Aside from this, the reality is that Faure should not be trusted to give up power by 2030. We have already seen Joseph Kabila delay elections in the Congo to prolong his presidency. Faure could pull something like this, or engage in other underhanded tactics to allow himself to remain in a position of power or influence after 2030. This is an issue that can only truly be corrected by changing the entire political system in Togo, but such change will not begin so long as Faure is in power. There’s still much that needs to be done before dictatorship in Togo is finally put to an end, but one thing that is certain is that Faure’s hold on power is weaker now today than it was two years ago.
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.