The big day for Togo

Bob vs Faure Voters in Togo are flocking to the polling stations today for a stark choice under difficult conditions. The unity candidate for the opposition, Bob Akitani, is facing off against the frontman of the ruling RPT, Faure Gnassingbé, the son of the late strongman of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema.

After weeks of turmoil and violent clashes between the militants of the RPT and the opposition, this election already has one loser: the ECOWAS/CEDEAO. After Faure was installed by the military after Eyadema’s death, they intervened vigorously and forced Faure and the generals to back down. However, the ECOWAS accepted Abass Bonfoh as the interim head of state, and Bonfoh was just as illegitimate as Faure.

More recently, opposition leaders, and the subsequently sacked Interior Minister François Esso Boko warned that this election should be postponed, because of the serious potential for it to tear the country apart, and to drag the country into civil war. The opposition is unlikely to accept any unfavorable result, as every agency involved in running the election is stocked with RPT agents, and the country has a decade-long history of rigged elections that kept Eyadema in power.

Considering the conditions, the ECOWAS should have forced the Bonfoh administration to postpone the election and helped the country prepare conditions for elections that both sides can accept. As it is, the ECOWAS took the path of least resistance, and showed off its inability to provide meaningful leadership in West Africa.

No matter what the election results will be, Togo has difficult times ahead. The opposition appears to be unprepared to accept a repeat of past “elections” and let the RPT cling to power. Should, by some miracle, the opposition win, its leaders will have to face an entrenched power elite of army brass and the family of Eyadema, rich and powerful from decades of sucking the country dry. Either scenario, I’m afraid, will play itself out on the backs of the hard-working people of Togo.

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