Civil Unrest in Togo: An Explainer

Overview

In the month of September, 3 people were killed amidst anti-government protests. One of the victims was a 9-year-od boy. The President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe has been in power for 12 years. His father, Eyadema Gnassingbe ruled the country for 38 years before that, beginning in 1967. These two men make up the longest-ruling family regime in Africa. They represent the Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, which holds 62 of the National Assembly’s 91 seats. When the public began showing signs of unrest earlier this year, UNIR promised to introduce a bill for presidential term limits to the National Assembly. It turned out that this bill would not apply retroactively, and would in fact allow President Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025. The bill failed, so the country will soon vote on the constitutional amendment in a referendum.

The Opposition

The opposition is made of many different factions, the most powerful being the National Alliance for Change (ANC) led by Jean-Pierre Fabre. Fabre came in second place in the 2015 presidential elections, but he and the ANC have begun to work with the Pan African National Party to defeat Gnassingbe as soon as possible. The politics in Togo are tied in many ways to tribal identities. The Gnassingbes actually come from a relatively small northern tribe called the Kabye, but they have filled the government and military with their tribemates, giving the group an outsized level of influence.

Comparison to The Gambia

Given the increasing levels of civil unrest, citizens of Togo may be seeking help from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which was instrumental in ousting Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. ECOWAS assembled troops at the border of The Gambia when Jammeh seemed he would refuse to give up his office after losing the presidential election. ECOWAS has not responded to the civil unrest in Togo so far. While the situation is not the same as in The Gambia, another complicating factor is that the president of ECOWAS is married to Faure Gnassingbe’s sister.

Source: The Economist, September 23rd

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