Cementing Eyadema’s 48 Years of Dynasty | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Cementing Eyadema’s 48 Years of Dynasty

Posted: May 3, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sola Alabadan Lagos

The country Togo

Togo, a country of 6.8 million people became independent in 1960. But three years after, the first president of the country, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed in a coup in 1963, led by an army colonel then known as Etienne Eyadema, who later adopted the name Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Gnassingbe  Faure

Gnassingbe                                  Faure

Nicolas Grunitsky, who succeeded Olympio, was ousted in a bloodless coup in 1967 by Eyadema, who proclaimed himself head of state.

Eyadema’s 48 years of dynasty

Pressure for democracy and donor threats to stop economic assistance led to a national conference in 1991 and a transitional administration with a lifting of restrictions on the political opposition.

With military backing, Eyadema soon reclaimed his presidential authority. He was re-elected in 1993, in a poll boycotted by the opposition. Eyadema was returned to power in 1998 in an election whose results were contested by his opponents, and again in 2003 after modifying the constitution to allow him to seek another term.

After governing the people with an iron grip for 38 years, Eyadema eventualy died of a heart attack on Saturday February 5, 2005. His regime has been compared to that of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in terms of its brutality, the repression of suspected dissidents and the terrorising of the country’s over six million people, most of whom are illiterate or semi-literate peasants surviving through subsistence agriculture. Torture and extra-judicial killings were common under Eyadema, and an estimated one million Togolese left the country since he came to power in 1967.

The day after Eyadema’s death, his son Faure Gnassingbe was named by the army to succeed him, before standing down under international pressure. He was elected in April 2005 during a vote disputed by the opposition and tainted by violence. He was re-elected in March 2010 faced with opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre in a poll marred by opposition complaints of fraud and intimidation. Thus, the Eyademas have ruled the country for 48 years.

2015 presidential election

The presidential election was held in Togo on 25 April 2015. Initially scheduled for April 15, the election was postponed by 10 days at the recommendation of John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana and acting chair of the ECOWAS organisation.

Again, Faure sought a third term in office, while his challenger Fabre of the main opposition Combat for Political Change (CAP) coalition sought to end nearly 50 years of rule of the Gnassingbe dynasty. Three other candidates also contested in the election. They are Tchaboure Gogue of Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development, Gerry Tamaa of New Togolese Commitment and Mohamed Tchassona-Traoré of Citizens’ Movement for Democracy and Development.

At the end of the day, the head, Independent National Electoral Commission, Taffa Tabiou, states that Faure Gnassingbe has been elected based on provisional results which are subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court. The Commission declared Gnassingbé the winner with about 59 percent of the vote, whilst Fabre received 35 percent. Thus, Gnassingbe was re-elected for third term as Togo’s president.

Opposition kicks

On April 29, however, the main opposition party called the results fraudulent and demanded the election cancellation.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said that results announced by the election commission were fraudulent and did not match those from polling stations compiled by his party. He called for results to be canceled.

The election commission chairman, Taffa Tabiou, announced late Tuesday night that Gnassingbe won 1.2 million votes, about 59 percent of the poll in Saturday’s election. His main challenger, Jean Pierre Fabre, had 35 percent of the vote, the commission said.

But Fabre called the results fraudulent and demanded a cancellation of results. “I call on the people to mobilise by all legal means to counter this new coup,” he said, accusing the government of refusing to organise free and fair elections.

“This is an electoral coup planned long ago,” Fabre’s campaign manager, Patrick Lawson-Banku, told a news conference. He added that the opposition will announce its own results.

UN, ECOWAS, others commend peaceful poll

Togolese political analyst David Ihou expressed surprise about the accusations, saying “all records” of the polling stations had been signed by “representatives of each candidate”, and criticised what he termed “an obstructionist strategy” by the opposition.

An observer mission of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS said it turned up “no major incident that may taint the credibility of the voting process.”

The Constitutional Court is to verify and publish final results before May 3, the official end of Gnassingbe’s second term.

Meanwhile, the EU, Togo’s leading international lender, said the election “went off calmly, confirming the Togolese people’s attachment to democracy.”

The African Union and regional bloc ECOWAS also said the vote was free and transparent.

Similarly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the peaceful conduct of the presidential election.

The Secretary-General encourages all political leaders and segments of society to continue to maintain the peaceful atmosphere that prevailed throughout the electoral process.

He also urged all candidates and their supporters to resolve any disputes that might arise through established legal procedures.

Despite the irregularities, voters are likely to see Gnassingbe as a safe vote that ensures peaceful elections. Many Togolese have vivid memories of the post-election violence in 2005 that killed more than 500 people.

The incumbent also has support because he initiated numerous infrastructure projects, including new roads, major renovations to the port in the capital, Lome, and a new airport.

Gnassingbe also started to revive Togo’s tourism sector by building several new hotels, including the luxurious, 100m tall 2 Fevrier (February 2) flagship project.

No limits on re-election

Currently, there are no limits on the number of times a president can stand for re-election. The opposition wants a two-term limit. The ruling party have consistently blocked several attempts to limit the president’s term in office in the nation.

With his re-election, Faure, 48, has been given the mandate to extend his 10-year-rule, following in the footsteps of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the small West African nation rich in phosphates, limestone and marble for 38 years. But considering his age, whether Faure will also rule for 38 years of more, only time will tell.