Kofi Akosah-Sarpong looks at how African newspapers feel about the Togolese coup detat following the country's military brass installing the late President Gnassingbe Eyadema's son, Faure, as president, and argues that democracy and rule of law is finally getting roots in Africa as reflected in the African mass media
Some years past what happened in Togo February 7 when the country's military brass hurriedly installed the late President Gnassingbe Eyadema's son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president against the country's constitution would have passed without any threats of sanctions or noise or all the decent talks, failing of which, some Nigerian legislators calling for military intervention to restore constitutional order a al Sierra Leone. What happened in Togo on Monday 7 February, despite flashes of West African character, as we are seeing in Cote d'Ivoire, threw the entire sub-region off balance in its painful democratic growth in a region prone to instabilities, civil wars, weak democracies and rule of law, dark spiritual practices (of which Togo is heavily known), weak civic virtues and elites who have no trust in their own system despite being the main powerful ideologues.
In the face of the region's daunting problems (West Africa is the poorest region in the world, the most crime prone area in Africa, the most unstable region in Africa and most dark spiritual practices region in Africa), not only is the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) condemning what they call "coup detat" in the Togolese political/constitutional drama, the West African press in particular and African ones in general have mounted spirited editorials calling for reverting Togo to her normal constitutional order, despite the hurried amendment by the top military brass and parliament installing Faure as president.
"West African leaders have branded the father-to-son transition of power in Togo as a military coup and have demanded that the old constitution be restored so that presidential elections can be held in two months," said the UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), which covers Africa's democratic and development trends for the international community, in a follow up to a meeting in Niamey, Niger where nine presidents of the 15-nation ECOWAS condemned the military-backed capture of power by Faure following the death Eyadema. From West Africa's superpower Nigeria, newspapers, suffering from nostalgia of long-running military rule in most part of the country's existence, the Lagos-based This Day editorialized that, "If the death, last Saturday, of Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo's president for nearly 40 years, offered any prospects of the emergence of genuine democracy in the tiny West African country, the hasty inauguration of his 39-year old son, Faure, as his successor has dashed it. Indeed, what the world is witnessing in Togo is nothing but a farce which the international community must not allow to stand."
The Kampala, Uganda-based New Vision, echoing the sentiments of Africans, said, "The events unfolding in Togo bear all the hallmarks of what ridicules Africa before the world, and short-changes African peoples." But the Monrovia, Liberia-based Analyst, relived flashes of feelings of how its own country has suffered terrible civil war over 14 years due to twisted constitutional wrangling and military and rebel groups meddling in its democratic growth, "WHAT WE DID not say in that story was how ECOWAS' and AU's swift reactions to the manipulation of power and utter disregard for the rule of law gladdened our hearts and tempted us to leap in joy that at long last, African leaders were spontaneously rejecting monarchic democracy and responding to the will of the people. We did not also say how we were touched by the spontaneity of the reaction that was contained in a statement urging the people of Togo to ensure that the rule of law prevailed in order to ensure the stability of that tiny country which is about half of Liberia."
The Yaounde, Cameroon-based Cameroon Tribune, reflecting Cameroon's own democratic struggles said," Things are moving fast and unconstitutional in Togo. Those abreast with what's going on, certainly know that the parliament hastily amended the constitution on Sunday to put a legal veneer on the military's appointment of 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe to replace his deceased father as president." For the Johannesburg, South African-based Business Day, hoping that Togo would have joined Africa's on-going democratic waves, held that," By imposing Faure Gnassingbe - the son of Togo's late president Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died last Saturday after a 38-year tenure - as Togo's new president, the west African country's political elite has missed a great opportunity to join Africa's quickening march towards democracy." In saying "Togo Shames Africa," the Gaborone, Botswana-based Mmegi/Reporter, which country is making remarkable strides in her democratic growth whispered," No-one can be proud of the scandal that is unfolding in Togo." Ghana's Accra Daily Mail, Togo's immediate neighbour, feeling bad about the Togolese coup detat in a region of wave of fragile stabilities said, "Just as we were beginning to bask in the glow of how the democratization bug has bitten us in the ECOWAS sub-region, Ghana's eastern neighbour, Togo, has decided to spoil the fun for all of us."
The Harare, Zimbabwe-based The Daily News, which country is having democratic problems of their own in President Robert Mugabe's and his cohorts autocratic rule, recalling how Faure's mounting of the Togolese presidential chair is reminiscent of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's President Joseph Kabila doing same following the death of his father, Laurent, to "It is doubtful if the AU's initial protests at Faure's succession will mature into positive action. The AU chairman, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, sounded firm in his opposition to the shameful events in Togo. But there has been no call for an emergency meeting of the AU to discuss the Togo crisis. It is a crisis and we can foresee hundreds, if not thousands, of Togolese being killed as they protest in the streets against this flagrant usurpation of their right to choose their own leaders."
Generally, in a new African democratic gamesmanship, the African press have harsh words for Faure and his tribal cliché, who have stolen power and denied poor Togolese the opportunity to grow democracy following the death of the autocrat President Eyadema.
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