18.05.2005 Togo

EDITORIAL: Post-Eyadema Togo

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– Lessons From Ghana And The Way Forward ON SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2005 the people of Togo, across the border, went to the polls to choose a successor to the late General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in office as President in February after 38 years of near total autocratic rule.

The choice was between Mr Faure Gnassingbe, a son of Eyadema who had earlier been forced to resign following international outcry after he was imposed by the military, and Mr Bob Akitani, an Olympio faithful who was the candidate of a six-party opposition coalition.

In the event, the Togoloese Electoral Commission, which is supervised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, declared Faure winner with 60 percent of the popular vote cast while Akitani was said to have garnered 38 percent.

Claiming he got 70 percent of the vote, Akitani declared himself President, amidst violent protests which were, expectedly ruthlessly suppressed, unleashing a flood of refugees across Togo's borders into Ghana and the Benin Republic.

Last week, Faure who is presently visiting the Ghanaian leader, was sworn into office as the legal successor to his father, after an election which even though seen as flawed in some areas is accepted by the international community as the best possible under the circumstances.

The opposition coalition, Akitani and Gilchrist Olympio, long time Eyadema foe and son of the man he (Eyadema) overthrew and killed to become Head of State in the early sixties, apparently feel cheated and done in.

They could resort to arms as many others before them have done across the continent. But that would be short-sighted and many in the vanguard of the struggle would not survive to reap the fruits of their labour.

With a military top brass that is afraid of its tomorrow should the leadership of Togo change from the Eyademas, stoutly behind Faure, he is in a virtually unassailable position. Only the long-suffering people of Togo would be the cannon fodder in any such resort to arms. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and nearby Cote d'Ivoire are examples that readily come to mind.

Very unpalatable as the Togo situation may seem to the opposition in the short term, GYE NYAME CONCORD believes it can be salvaged to their advantage in the long term, if they would place the interest of the people, and not their own thwarted political ambitions, first.

Any closer look at Togo's electoral set up would show clearly that the Minister of Interior, a political appointee of the President, wins elections there for the government through his supervision and control of the supposedly Independent Electoral Commission. No such commission can be independent and conduct an election that the opposition would win.

Talk of the camel going through the eye of the needle!

The Togolese opposition should now launch an international campaign for a reform of the electoral administration system in that country. First, they should have one major demand; that the chairman and commissioners of the Electoral Commission as well as members of the Constitutional Court be given constitutionally guaranteed security of tenure, a la Ghana.

Gilchrist could take tutorials from his friend, Dr (Dr) Rawlings, whose Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) mid-wifed our 1992 Constitution which made our EC impregnable, not subject to the whims and caprices of the Ghanaian head of state.

Second, they should let their presence be felt throughout the country, especially the north where Eyadema's support base is. No politician wins power in any one country without a presence in the nooks and crannies of the country he seeks to rule. There is no doubt the south is the support base of the Togolese opposition. But an incumbent government, given the almost unlimited monetary resources at its command, can always make inroads into opposition strongholds.

Once they achieve these two steps above and they put their monies where their mouths are, it is only a matter of time that the Togolese opposition would come to power, even if it is the children of the present crop.

The path of violence has never paid any politician enduring fruits or dividends. They always end up haunted by the past. Some may argue that Charles Taylor of Liberia enjoyed himself as President of Liberia. But what is his fate now? It is only a matter of time; he would be thrown to the wolves on the altar of the national interest of the country in which he is now an honoured refugee.

All the indications are that he will end his current life on earth behind prison bars, as Nigeria pursues her dream of holding a veto power in the United Nations Security Council and America insists on Taylor being handed over as a war criminal as a pre-condition for its support.

GYE NYAME CONCORD does not wish any such misfortune for the opposition politicians in Togo and would urge them to benefit from its good counsel!

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