Togo: Bittersweet Independence Day

TogoFor many citizens of Togo, this must be a bittersweet day. On April 27, 1960, the French administered UN Trusteeship and former French colony became an independent nation. But today also marks a year and a day since the ruling party, the RPT, declared victory in the so-called “election” of April 24, 2005. This rigged fraud of a vote handed control over the country to Faure Gnassingbé, the son of Togo’s brutal former president of 38 years, Gnassingbé Eyadema.

Amnesty International issued a statement (fr) yesterday, denouncing last year’s “election” as marred with irregularities and violence. Thirty years of a culture of total impunity for the military and the RPT regime caused the violence that left several hundred dead – mostly unarmed civilian protesters. AI deplores the fact that nothing has been done to find and prosecute those responsible for last year’s violence, despite concrete recommendations in a United Nations report from August 2005.

IRIN has a pretty good status update on Togo, and while it covers the whole mess, the violence, the thousands of refugees in neighboring countries, the distrust among the Togolese, the bleak economc outlook, the need for a reform of the military, etc … the article also points to some encouraging signs:

Togo’s original Independence Day from France – 27 April 1960 – is to be literally re-written back in to the history books. Under Gnassingbe Eyadema, Independence Day was celebrated on the 13 January, the day he seized power in a 1967 coup. Independence Day celebrations on the 27 April are due to take place Thursday for the first time in nearly three decades.

And Lome residents feel more at ease speaking their minds these days. “My colleagues and I discuss the newspaper headlines in front of the news kiosks and we are not frightened to do so,” said Leo Kpakpo, who explained that it wasn’t like that under the late Eyadema. His regime was marked by repression of the opposition, according to the media watchdog NGO Reporters Without Borders.

Now, all journalists jailed for speaking out against the government have been released, a move guardedly welcomed by Togolese Media Observers (OTM). “There is much still to be done,” warned Francis Amouzou, president of OTM. “It is important to remember that at the beginning of Faure Gnassingbe’s regime, journalists were physically assaulted and there have been no enquiries into this harassment.”

Togo: Outward Calm Belies Continuing Problems, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, posted to April 26, 2006

LeTogolais celebrates this occasion with a story about one of the heroes of the struggle for Togo’s independence: Pa Augustino de Souza (fr). De Souza was born in Agbodrafo on Oct. 15, 1877 and went to school in Aneho. He later worked for the Deutsche Togo Gesellschaft, before he became an independent plantation owner. During the Independence movement, he was President of the Elder Council, next to Octaviano Olympio, Jacob Adjallé and Thimoty Agbétsiafan, and a member of the Committee for Togolese Unity. De Souza was instrumental at laying the foundation that made possible the referendum for independence of 1958 and finally Togo’s independence. Sadly, he died on April 25, 1960, just two days before Togo became independent. (info via leTogolais)

Comments are closed.