by Aly Jonas

Agbéyomé Kodjo: “Exile is not easy and living far from your land is suffering”

Agbéyomé Kodjo : « L’exil n’est pas facile et vivre loin de sa terre est une souffrance »

Nearly two and a half years after his official defeat in the 2020 Togolese presidential election and his exile, Agbéyomé Messan Kodjo answers questions from Journal de l'Afrique. The opponent looks back on his exile, on the steps he took after the presidential election and even on his relations with Western diplomacies. Interview.

Le Journal de l'Afrique: You proclaimed your victory the day after the Togolese presidential election. What makes you say, still today, that the results were distorted?

Agbéyomé Messan Kodjo: We have a whole body of evidence demonstrating the regime's desire to “steal” this election. The Togolese electoral law thus prescribes the obligation for the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to have all the minutes of the 9,389 polling stations nationally before any official publication of the results.

The electoral code provides for a delay of six days for this general census and the delivery of all the results, due to the state of our road infrastructure. However, in this case, Faure Gnassingbé proclaimed himself the winner 24 hours after the vote. It has a name: it’s a coup d’état.

I would add that the overwhelming electoral victory of the Dynamique Monseigneur Kpodzro (DMK) on February 22, 2020 was welcomed by the main political groups of the Togolese opposition and civil society, and recognized by certain diplomats from the Western world. They then confided to us their conviction that, despite this reality at the polls, Faure Gnassingbé did not want to leave power.

Added to this are two major elements: first, Faure Gnassingbé's attempt to buy my complacency in exchange for a post of Prime Minister with expanded powers and a suitcase of 15 million euros. The proposal was explicitly made to me by Minister Atcha Adédji who also recognized during our interview the defeat of his boss, while asking me to silence my demands. Then, the production by Faure Gnassingbé of false congratulatory messages broadcast on RFI to discourage movements protesting his alleged victory.

“I was detained in humiliating conditions”

You subsequently suffered arrests and, according to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), you did not benefit from the right to freedom of expression which was your right. How did you experience the situation?

As a relief and as confirmation of the judicial abuses in my country. Having declined the offer of bribery, my home was surrounded for two months by heavily armed soldiers. This lasted until April 25, 2020, with an attack of rare violence. My house was ransacked, the service staff, family and supporters were assaulted, most of them thrown in prison.

I myself was taken manu militari to the gendarmerie where I was detained in humiliating conditions and where I underwent rigorous interrogation for four days under police custody. At the end of this ordeal, we were forbidden from ever claiming in the future the overwhelming electoral victory of the Togolese people brought to our person.

Indiscriminate violence spared no one. Even the 92-year-old Prelate, Mgr Kpodzro, despite his age and his liturgical vestment – ​​the skullcap on his head – was not spared from military brutality.

Despite this bullying against me, my family and my colleagues, the group of ambassadors from Western countries remained silent. However, he confirmed to us a few days earlier, the overwhelming victory of the Togolese people marking the political change in Togo after 53 years of chaotic reign of the Gnassingbé family.

It is for having deviated from the formal prohibition to no longer claim this victory that my life was put in danger and that I am obliged to protect myself by living underground.

Naturally the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled according to the law by condemning the Togolese State for three reasons: the ransacking of my home and my kidnapping, my confinement at the gendarmerie, and the illegal prohibition of claiming the victory of the Togolese people.

Despite the deadline set for the execution of judgment No ECW/CCJ/JUD/11/2022 of March 24, 2022 of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, to date, Faure Gnassingbé is in no hurry to 'obey the orders of community justice, in violation of international law.

“I cannot explain the attitude of Paris which supports a fifty-year-old dictatorship”

Do you feel you have lacked international support? What do you think of the support of the current Togolese regime by the international community, particularly by Paris?

I am surprised and outraged by the silence and therefore by a form of complicity from the group of ambassadors from Western countries. I cannot explain the attitude of Paris, which in fact supports a fifty-year-old dictatorship destroyed at the polls and is complicit in the production of false messages. It is in reality violence against the Togolese people.

It is also a variable geometry application of international law on the part of the European Union and the United Nations. The Togolese people have just as much right to respect for their choices as all other people on the planet.

I think that France, with which we maintain historical ties, should question the underlying reasons for the rejection to which it is subjected by a growing part of our populations. It cannot accommodate double standards when it comes to the universal rights of peoples to sovereignly decide their destiny. It is a question of loyalty to his historical image as a champion of democracy and human rights.

French women, under my roof, were molested, handcuffed, humiliated by Faure Gnassingbé's soldiers, without any French official having expressed the slightest protest, the slightest support, nor the slightest compassion.

Prime Minister from August 31, 2000 to June 29, 2002, you knew the system from the inside. Did you imagine becoming Faure Gnassingbé’s target?

The acts of gratuitous violence that I have suffered from him over the past decade are impressive and crystallize a form of morbid hatred, perhaps fascination, for me. I can only wish him to pull himself together before it's too late. I remain confident in my ability to carry out my mission.

“I will continue tirelessly”

Two years after the presidential election, how do you see things evolving? And why continue to claim victory, isn't it a waste of effort?

I will continue tirelessly, because beyond myself, it is the Togolese people who have been robbed, it is the decision of the Togolese people who have been flouted. It is a scandal with the bribery of several personalities, who know and remain silent. These people ignore the tragedy of the Togolese people, the fate of political prisoners and the liberticidal system which governs the lives of our populations.

I will therefore never give up because it is the entire Togolese Nation that is at stake. My fight is part of the fight of patriots from all walks of life who work tirelessly for the emergence of a united and prosperous democratic Togo.

I remain convinced that the time for clarification is no longer far away. We cannot stay in denial forever. Each season has its fruits! Since Faure Gnassingbé's heist, all initiatives since 2020 for a peaceful demonstration have been systematically banned. The latest is that of July 16, 2022 for security reasons, while the ruling party and other political or cultural groups exercise this constitutional right without any hindrance. Judge for yourself.

You have appointed ministers or diplomats. Do you have to make “communication stunts” to stay in the spotlight?

These are not “communication stunts”, not at all. Any pioneering work comes first and foremost from taking responsibility and daring, and this is what the establishment of the legitimate government of Togo in exile is all about. This is the reason why we have legitimately established an ecosystem capable of carrying out the fight for the defense of the Integral Sovereignty of Togo, the raison d'être of the struggle of Patriots from all walks of life.

Today more than ever, sovereignist battles are being waged under all skies and it would be an insult to consider the avant-garde battle of the Togolese people on the African continent as a vulgar “communication stunt”.

We have seen it in other countries - as with Jean Ping in Gabon - despite a claimed victory, political life continues. How do you experience it?

Each season has its fruits, as I told you previously. The dynamics are not the same despite the ambient gravity, hence the tactical and strategic difference. There are certainly many similarities with the political situation in Gabon, but the case of Togo is atypical in many respects. The presidential election of February 22, 2020 was a popular tidal wave that we are trying to keep in check, with tensions and frustrations that are still visible. For two years, all peaceful demonstrations organized by the DMK have been systematically banned or suppressed.

At a time when Africa is in the grip of convulsions, where the terrorist risk is everywhere and even now here in Lomé, the deadline of June 23, 2022 for the execution of the judgment of March 24, 2022 of the Court of Justice of ECOWAS, combined with the resolute action of the legitimate Government of Togo, undeniably constitute catalysts for the change long awaited by the Togolese people.

The fight of the Togolese people is above all carried by patriots convinced of their soul mission in this particular season of great global upheavals which will inevitably lead to the true independence of the peoples of Africa with the African renaissance.

I am only one link in the great chain of Builders of the new Africa, and I wish our detractors and the predators of the sovereignty of peoples to stop behaving like firefighters-arsonists. I remain calm. I trust in divine power for the accomplishment of His Perfect Plan for Togo.

“I remain convinced that I will return to my country shortly”

What is your daily life like? Are you exiled? Will you ever return to Togo?

Above all, I meditate and carry out the spiritual work necessary for our collective mission of National Liberation of Togo. I follow national and international political activities on a daily basis. I deepen my thoughts and constantly work on the most appropriate measures to get my fellow citizens out of the impasse in which Togo finds itself, in the current global geopolitical context. I read a lot, prepare major files for the council of ministers. I also take some time for myself and mine. Of course, exile is not easy and living far from your land is painful. But I remain convinced that I will return to my country soon, by the grace of God.

What steps will you take, particularly with international authorities?

We have contacted all the international authorities that matter, in particular ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations, the Francophonie... Mgr Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro, eponymous godfather of the DMK, who supported my candidacy and is threatened dead and exiled like me, went in May 2021 in Brussels to the European Commission then in October 2021 in Paris before the National Assembly to demand that justice be done to the Togolese people.

He is still waiting for the reaction of these institutions before returning to the country to end his life there. Our fight continues, ours and that of so many Togolese patriots