Two protestors have been killed in the African nation of Togo after law enforcement used live bullets to break up a demonstration.
13 others have been injured as a result of clashes between the demonstrators and armed forces.
Togo is a small country in West Africa that is dependent on foreign aid. The region used to be a French colony but received independence in 1960. The poverty levels are high and illegal ivory poaching is rampant in the area. Additionally, reports have emerged of human rights abuses that exists within the country. Amnesty has noted that security forces use far too much force against demonstrators. The organization states, “Arbitrary arrests & detentions, torture & other ill-treatment, and impunity for human rights violations persisted.”
For the past 50 years, the region has been under the rule of the powerful Gnassingbé family dynasty. The patriarch, Gnassingbé Eyadéma was in power from 1967 to 2005. Before he became the President, he had participated in two successful coups in the country. Those who had opposed him in elections in 1998 and 2003 claimed that the process had been fraudulent. His son, Faure Gnassingbé, is the current President of Togo. Prior to becoming the President, he had been appointed as the Minister of Equipment, Mines, Posts and Telecommunications (2003-2005) by his father. He had been in power since 2005.
The common public recently took to the streets to protest against the Gnassingbé family having been in power for decades. Protestors have demanded term limits to ensure no one remains the President for a protracted period of time. The protests that occurred over the weekend turned deadly when armed forces were shot at the demonstrators to break the rallies. It has resulted in the deaths of two and 13 others were wounded.
The protest was headed by the PNP, the opposition party in the country. PNP leader Tikpi Atchadam said, “"We are protesting against the arbitrary nature of governance and denial of freedom to assemble." The police used tear gas on the protestors at Lome, the capital of Togo. However, in a parallel protest that was taking place in Sokode, the armed forces used live bullets. This was because clashes had broken out. The government said that in addition to protestors, 13 gendarmes had been wounded.
Ali Boukari, one of the demonstrators told Al Jazeera, “We do not understand our little Togo. The father Eyadema was in power for 38 years, his son will soon have done 15 years. All we are demanding is a term limit and they shoot (tear gas) at us."
Our assessment is that violence will continue erupting in the region if the government continues to refuse acknowledging the concerns of its citizens. Although Togo’s foreign policy is non-aligned, it has strong historical and cultural ties with Western Europe especially France and Germany. India and Togo too have cordial bilateral relations and the Prime Minister of Togo, Gilbert Houngbo visited India in 2010. The Indian community in Togo is small. There are about 300 Indian families.