Togo - Politics
Togo is a republic headed by President Faure Gnassingbé, son of the late General Gnassingbé Eyadéma. Several coups and assassinations took place between 1960 and 1967, culminating with a coup in 1967 by General Gnassingbe Eyadema who then ruled until 2005. Eyadéma and his political party, with strong military backing, had dominated politics and maintained control over all levels of the country's highly centralized government. Togo's Human Rights record under Eyadema was appalling, as documented in dozens of reports from international organisations and NGOs. The security forces, especially the army, which was largely staffed with Eyadema loyalists from the north, were responsible for most of the abuses.
The current president, Faure Gnassingbe, is Eyadema’s son. While he came to power in flawed elections in 2005, under his rule Togo has demonstrated gradual democratic improvement, holding legislative elections in 2013 and a presidential vote in 2015 that were deemed credible by the international community.
The last major political violence occurred in 2005. The longest-serving African dictator, Togo's Gnassingbé Eyadéma, died unexpectedly in February 2005 after 38 years of autocratic rule. After the announcement of the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma [in power since 1967], on 5 February 2005, the Forces armées togolaises (FAT) Togolese Armed Forces proclaimed Faure Gnassingbé, son of the deceased head of state, as President of the Togolese Republic. On the following day, the President of the National Assembly, Fambaré Natchaba Ouattara, who should have, in accordance with the Constitution, taken over as caretaker leader pending presidential elections within two months, was dismissed and replaced by Faure Gnassingbé.
Despite a ban on constitutional amendments during the transition period, the Assembly also modified the constitution to allow Gnassingbé to serve out the rest of his father’s term of office, ending in 2008. This unconstitutional transfer of power, described by the AU as “a military coup”, was deeply condemned by the main opposition parties, united in a coalition, and by the international community.
Faure Gnassingbé premised his leadership on ending Togo's long political crisis and isolation from the donor community. Under Faure, the Togolese government has exhibited both a willingness to engage Togo’s active, albeit divided, opposition in a political reform process and a growing tendency to depoliticize the military.
Within hours of the installation of Faure Gnassingbé, ECOWAS responded strongly and quickly by condemning the developments as a coup and calling for a return to constitutional order. When the coup leaders failed to meet the deadline imposed by the West African body, sanctions were promptly imposed on Togo. This unequivocal and prompt response set an important precedent for the respect of long-established ECOWAS protocols on unconstitutional changes in government and for ECOWAS’ leadership role in crisis management. While the European Union, France and the United States, among others, also responded strongly to the events in Togo, it was clearly ECOWAS, closely backed by the AU that set the tone for the broader international community’s response.
Under intense pressure from Togolese democrats, (ECOWAS), the Africa Union (AU) and other members of the international community, Faure Gnassingbé finally stepped down on 27 February 2005 . However he retained considerable power over the transition. Abass Bonfoh, Vice President of the National Assembly, was sworn in as Interim President and announced a presidential election for April 24.
Protest efforts by the public included a large demonstration in Lome that was permitted to proceed peacefully. Prior to stepping down, Faure Gnassingbe was selected as leader of the ruling party and named as a candidate in the announced presidential elections to choose a successor to Eyadema. Abass Bonfoh, National Assembly Vice President, was selected to serve as Speaker of the National Assembly and therefore simultaneously became interim President. Real power apparently was retained by Faure Gnassingbe as he continued to use the offices of the President while the interim President operated from the National Assembly.
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