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In Togo, the opposition wants to be able to demonstrate… but for what?


Amnesty International demands that the Togolese government authorize new demonstrations, which have been banned for health reasons. But what would an increasingly moribund Togolese opposition do with this right?

The NGO Amnesty International, in a short public statement, denounced the double standard concerning the health protocol in Togo. Since March 2020, the rules have begun to relax with regard to "sporting, cultural and social activities", after the government announcements on February 22.

However, gatherings of more than fifteen people are still prohibited as well as political demonstrations. "This ban remains despite the government welcoming on March 8 that there are 'no Covid-19 patients in treatment centres'", deplores Amnesty International, which therefore explains that the virus would allow the Togolese power to muzzle any political opposition.

A subject that the national and international media have taken up, denouncing an "attack on the right of assembly and expression" on the part of the State of Faure Gnassingbé. As if it were the first measure of repression in fifty-five years of reign – to say the least authoritarian – of the Gnassingbé family.

Read: ECOWAS: Gnassingbé and Ouattara, the last of the Mohicans

Especially since the ban on gatherings is a measure still maintained in the fight against Covid-19 by several States. According to the latest news, this would concern a large part of African countries, including some so-called "democratic" such as Cape Verde. But, also, several non-African countries, such as Canada, certain parts of the United States, Brazil, the Netherlands, India, Australia or Germany...

Isn't this media campaign against Togolese power the cry of despair of a suffocating opposition, which demands more freedoms without really knowing what it would do with them? "Are there not more urgent demands to be made against the Togolese authorities", takes offense at a member of Togolese civil society.

The Togolese opposition no longer mobilizes in the streets

Because the opposition itself knows that it is out of breath and that the street is not an area in which it excels. For several years, Faure Gnassingbé's total control over the machinery of the state has been evident. Year after year, the country is sinking in the ranking of democracies established by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The opposition has tried in recent years to put forward two main representatives, after accusing Jean-Pierre Fabre of being an opponent in the pay of power.

The first – the most publicized – is the former presidential candidate, Agbéyomé Kodjo, who was placed under judicial supervision, while he was accused of undermining the internal security of the State and aggravated disturbances in the 'public order. On the run, the opponent continues to hold meetings of ministers of his self-proclaimed government. But Kodjo no longer has a solid militant base and strives to speak in a vacuum.

On the other hand, the only real momentum of opposition to the despotism of the Gnassingbé clan dates from 2017. The rise in popularity of Tipki Atchadam and his Pan-African National Party (PNP) did not last long. The power succeeded in suffocating Atchadam and its militants. The opponent has indeed lost much of his support after accusations of terrorism - Atchadam was a Muslim from northern Togo, in a country generally not very tolerant.

In 2018, massive state repression put hundreds of PNP activists behind bars. Since then, Tipki Atchadam and his party, like Kodjo, are no longer, as the media call them, only “cyber-opponents in exile”. Just like Nathaniel Olympio, another Togolese cyber-activist.

Today, the Togolese opposition has invested the digital space. And asks that the State lift the ban on demonstrations. “But who would demonstrate? “, ironically an observer of Togolese political life who recalls that” the opposition demonstrations, before 2020, were much louder on social networks than in the streets of Lomé. Today we must demand accountability from power and not focus on measures that do not affect us in any way”.

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