Togo has been ruled by Africa’s longest serving political dynasty and rocked by months of anti-regime protests, the nation is expected to hold its legislative and local elections in December 16th and 20th respectively as well as a referendum on constitutional reforms.
Over the years, the people of Togo have staged demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe, who took power in 2005 after the death of his father who had ruled for 38 years summing up the family’s 50-year rule.
The opposition is demanding a return to the 1992 constitution which include a two-term limit for presidents, It is obvious that conducting of the elections without the necessary reforms will not solve the Togolese question, it will only intensify tensions and violence.
The opposition coalition at the beginning of the unrest that has marred the country for more than a year, condemned the irregularities in the organization of the elections and called for president Faure Gnassingbé to step down. It is obvious Gnassingbe is looking for how to extend his time in office by another 10 years from 2020. While there aren’t any term limits currently, the coalition of 14 parties have sought to reinstate the 1992 constitution that sets a 10-year limit for presidents.
Togo’s opposition coalition has called the people across the country to stay at home on the day of the elections and vowed to boycott the elections over alleged fraud and is demanding President Faure Gnassingbe resign after more than a decade
Faure Gnassingbe took over as Togo’s president in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the French-speaking nation for 38 years with army support and machineries. Sadly, bloody riots and electoral violence followed the elections that year, which the opposition disputed. Faure was re-elected in 2010 and 2015.
However, Gambia and Togo respectively are only the two ECOWAS members to reject a proposal to limit the number of presidential terms across the region, during a summit in Accra in May 2015.
After peaceful transition of power in Benin and Ghana, popular uprisings in Burkina Faso, Togo and Gambia were faced with leadership tussle. The fate of Gambian president Yahya Jammeh was sealed in December 2016 after his refusal to recognise defeat at the polls.
In 2002, the Rally of the Tologese People (RPT), unilaterally modified the constitution to remove term limits, reduce the presidential election to one round, and decrease the minimum age for presidents from 45 to 35.
This last amendment was a clear attempt to pave the way for his son, Faure Gnassingbe, who was in his late-30s at the time, to take over power if needed. In 2005, this is precisely what happened. 38 years after taking power, Eyadema died of heart attack. Just hours later, the army announced his that son was the new president.
Amidst regional and international criticism that the move was unconstitutional, Gnassingbe temporarily stepped down. But he soon returned to office following elections, which he officially won with over 60% of the vote. The polls, however, were widely condemned as fraudulent. Protests that followed were violently repressed.
These protests brought back some familiar memories, It reminded some of the early-1990s, when a similar democracy movement gained momentum in Togo before it was brutally cut short by the regime of General Gnassingbe Eyadema.
When Togo gained independence in 1960, there was a brief period of excitement and hope under the leadership of founding father Sylvanus Olympio but this proved to be short-lived. In 1963, a group of former soldiers, in part led by Eyadema, orchestrated a coup and assassinated Olympio.
Eyadema further launched a second military coup in 1967, this time installing himself as president. He quickly moved to ban political parties, jailing most youth leaders, sending hundreds into exile, and killing dozens of others.
Months ago, thousands of citizens had taken to the streets to demand democratic reforms and the restoration of the country’s 1992 constitution. Calling for change after half a century of rule by the Gnassingbe family, these demonstrators marched to chants of “50 years is too long”.