Togo is a relatively small country situated in West Africa with a population of about 5.5 million. Some of her agricultural products include coco, coffee and cotton which generate about 40% of export earnings and she is the world’s fourth-largest producer of phosphate.
Togo’s political landscape, just like that of many other African countries is full of dramas, twists and turns. The country has been ruled by one family-political-party since 1967 – for nearly 50 years despite the introduction of multi-party elections in the early 90s. Elections in the country have been characterised by malfeasances, huge frauds, violence, betrayal and arbitrary detentions.
Due to the weak nature of the country’s political system, both public and private institutions are controlled by the executive only – the nature of governance is abysmal, majority of the populace is in a state of despondency; this notwithstanding Togo still has a bright future but may however see it quenched if there are no functional measures put in place to lessen the consequences that the country would undergo years to come as result of the current state of events.
In Africa, many opposition parties that are created are not driven by public or vested interests but rather in hunt of partisan and party founder’s own glory and gains – the case in Togo is no other different – this explains in one way the failure of African democracy based on western concepts.
Political opposition parties become active only during electioneering period. The result of this phenomenon is the low confidence and trust demonstrated by electorates in flag-bearers of opposition parties. Ideally, parties in opposition must equally contribute their quota to national development, for instance, by scrutinizing, evaluating and analysing government policies and programmes.
Over the years, opposition leaders have shown signs of irresponsibilities, proving they are not masters of the game. The “most efficient” strategy of opposition parties is demonstrations.
Almost every Saturday, leading opposition figures invite loyal party members as well citizens at large to attend demonstration with the view of registering their displeasures and concerns to the government in particular and the world by extension. But in reality, these demonstrations have not been effective at all – the political situation has not changed a bit but has rather worsen the more, because demonstrations have not been accompanied by concrete and well-planned out strategies.
Instead of seeing demonstrations as an opportunity to educate and sensitize their people on issues pertaining to winning elections, opposition leaders rather use those occasions to deliver hateful, revengeful and hallow speeches.
2005 presidential election
Gnassingbé Eyadéma, had ruled Togo for 38 years until his death and subsequently succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé with strong military support on February 5, 2005. Following unfavourable reactions from popular protest and regional leaders denouncing the move as “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic”, given the fact that the Togolese constitution makes provision for the speaker of parliament to succeed the president in case of any eventuality, after which an election will be held within 60 days, he succumbed to pressure 20 days later.
After his resignation, elections were scheduled to be held later on April 24, 2005 which he ran for president and eventually won with a lot of controversies.
2007 legislative elections
On October 14, 2007, legislative elections were held for the first time in 17 years following several postponements due to disagreement and differences on the organisation of the elections, conduct of election officials and electoral boundaries… The aftermath of the elections was characterised by contestation of the results by the major opposition party at the time, UFC (who won 27 out of the 81 seats), alleging that they [elections] were marred with massive “frauds and irregularities”.
2010 presidential polls
A presidential election took place in Togo on March 2012 opposing incumbent president Faure Gnassingbé of RPT and major opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre of UFC as well as other minor opposition parties. Prior to the election, the Togolese government was warned to take measures to increase credibility in the electoral process in order to avert similar consequences that the country witnessed during the 2005 controversial presidential elections.
During that time, hundreds of people were killed and thousands fled to neighbouring countries as a result of the violence that erupted after the election. Yet again, the results of the 2010 presidential election turned to be unfavourable to the opposition. Radical opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre vividly contested the results denouncing “frauds and irregularities”.
The people “betrayed”
2010 could be considered as one of the darkest and most chaotic periods in the country’s (political) history. Contestations of the  election outcome by primary opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre degenerated into violence leaving hundreds of people killed and thousands displaced and dismissed.
Considering the political tension in the country, Gylchrist Olympio, founding president of UFC was presented a proposal by the controversially elected president (Faure Gnassingbé) to form an inclusive government. This was not generally welcomed by majority of the party executives as well loyalists who considered the move as “humiliating”, because according them they [UFC] won the election.
Gylchrist Olympio eventually accepted the offer and went into Gnassingbé’s government with a handful of party members. The majority of the party members perceived the action as a “betrayal to the people of Togo” who died, suffered injury and humiliation, got brutalised in his [Gylchrist] quest to conquer power. This caused the split of the major opposition party with Fabre forming his own political “family” which would be known as ANC.
2012 legislative elections
Legislative elections were scheduled to take place in October 2012 but never materialised due to protests and strikes from opposition and civil society demanding electoral reforms related to boundary delimitation, political party finance and, most important of all, deep distrust. They elections were finally held on July 25, 2013, after they have been repeatedly postponed three times.
This time round, the opposition appeared to be more organised, prepared and determined and hoped to secure a parliamentary majority in order to push through reforms necessary to reduce the overwhelming powers of the presidency. But again, their hopes were shut by the massively contested results.
Failed reforms and weak political systems
Considering the over-tensed environment in Togo in 2007, it appeared appropriate that any semblance of dialogue between the opposition and government could be a catalyst tool for “peaceful political revolution”.
In this light a number of promising agreements were met within the Accord Politique Global of 2006. This arrangement included the creation in 2009 of the Cadre Permanent de Dialogue et de Concertation (CPDC) as a major dialogue platform, from which questions about access to state media, a code of conduct of political parties, and questions of national unity would be examined.
In 2009, a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was also created to investigate violence between 2005 and 1958 and to compensate victims. But the 68 strong recommendations made by the Commission to promote reconciliation and national cohesion have since not yet been implemented.
As noted in the introductory paragraph of the current publication, Togo’s political systems lack credibility and integrity, especially in the eyes of investors. She suffers from a range of structural and political problems that renders her high-handed and dictatorial.
The 2002 Constitution (modified by late Gnassingbé Eyadéma) provides the President with a number of vast and ambiguous prerogatives such as an unlimited number of terms and the ability to nominate and sack the Prime Minister as he wishes. In addition, the Electoral Commission, the judiciary and the Haute Autorité de Regulation de l’Audiovisuel et des Médias (authority in charge of regulating the media) are all closely linked and to an extent controlled by the government.
The Togolese electoral system is also uncommon in Africa in the sense that the presidency is decided in a single vote, with no possibility of a second-round run-off. This means that leading candidate wins whether or not he/she gained an absolute majority. Obviously, this system can only favour the candidate with the most financial and logistical means to reach constituencies across the entire country.
But a recent dialogue held between the government and opposition to evoke questions in connection with constitutional and institutional reforms could be seen as a “big failure” because no consensus was reached. Indeed, it an imperative for institutional and constitutional reforms to take place to save the country from years-long decay.
2015 presidential election: the way forward
The next presidential election scheduled to take place in 2015 could a critical turning point for the country. Togo has not done well in her political “career”. Part of the failure could also be attributed to the opposition who has over the years shown signs of irresponsibilities vis-à-vis their development programmes (manifestos) and conducts. Opposition parties are likely to boycott the election. It will be in their own disadvantage and disfavour if they do so. They must unite, re-organise and re-strategise. The civil society must equally play a critical role in the process by organising non-partisan debates between the government and opposition on important issues.
10 other recommendations
- Non-participation of Faure Gnassingbé in the up-coming election
- Consensus on two-rounds elections;
- Equal representation of all parties in the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI);
- Equal representation of all parties in the Supreme Court;
- Instant declaration of results in polling stations and immediate communication to the media;
- Electronic electoral system used only for verifications ;
- Acceptance for the recount of ballot papers there be any eventuality in the presence of all parties ;
- Consensus on the limit of government expenditure prior to campaigning period ;
- Outlawing the EU to surreptitiously support security personnel who oppress the populace;
- Re-definition of all electoral observers’ mission by an evenly composed committee by all political parties.
Isidore Kpotufe is a blogger and web journalist. Follow him on twitter (@isidorelopez)