EU aid embargo to Togo lifted

According to the Togolese government news website, EU officials informed the Togolese ambassador to Belgium this weekend of the lifting of the 14-year-old aid embargo against Togo. The EU decision apparently also prompted the IMF to re-establish relations with the Togolese government – for what that’s worth.

The EU suspended all development aid to Togo in 1993, after President Eyadema’s troops brutally crushed the nascent political opposition to his oppressive military rule. Several thousand Togolese were killed by the military and by RPT death squads during the riots of 1992/93. But all the EU sanctions did was punish a suffering people by undermining Togo’s economy. The deteriorating economy created a massive brain-drain, as many Togolese left for what seemed like greener pastures abroad. That meant that young people with university education left the country, instead of organizing an effective opposition. So suspending aid most likely helped Eyadema, rather than hurt him. If the Europeans really wanted to put pressure on Eyadema, the French should have stopped their military support for the Eyadema regime.

The decision to resume aid to Togo comes after the current “national unity government” was formed last year, based on negotiations facilitated by the government of Burkina Faso. The talks in Ouagadougu resulted in a commitment to hold elections this year, several compromises re the eligibility requirements for presidential candidates, and a coalition government of the ruling RPT and the opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC).

With Eyadema gone, and the French president Chiraq a “lame duckq,” maybe there is a chance for a democratic election in Togo, after all. If the French keep their sticky fingers OUT of Togo, and the EU and the AU send lots of observers to the polling stations, maybe the seed of democracy can finally sprout in Togo, this year. Still, we’re only talking about legislative elections this year. Extracting the Gnassinbé clan from the presidency and from its stranglehold on Togo will not happen overnight. But if the EU and the AU help the Togolese hold the ruling RPT and the military accountable, maybe there is hope. And a new French president might also help.

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