The opposition government in Togo, led by Jean-Pierre Fabre, is calling for a nationwide workers strike on Monday for more democratic reforms to the current government policy under President Faure Gnassingbé, including a two-term limit for presidents. This protest comes months after the last violent one, spurred by decades of a corrupt dictatorship under the Gnassingbé family.
Since protests broke out in August of last year, 13 individuals have been killed by the leadership. Additionally, the authorities have called for people to not participate in Monday’s demonstration, encouraging them to ‘resist pressure’ from the opposition. Although, according to Farida Nabourema, a political activist in Togo, the vast majority of Togolese have adopted a ‘Faure Must Go’ sentiment and are in full support of Monday’s strike. This sentiment is the culmination of decades of economic hardship in the region, resulting in 54.2% of today’s population living below the poverty line. Also, with the majority of the people being below 25, most of them have only ever lived under the oppressive rule of the Gnassingbé family and the poor economic conditions associated with it and so are demanding for change and a better way of life.
The opposition is to be applauded for their encouragement of peaceful protestation through these strikes. Yet ultimately, violent conflict is likely to arise due to the interrelationship between the military and the government and the leadership’s potential to use violent means to maintain their control. West African journalist Muhammad Dan Suleiman confirms this sentiment by noting that “with the support of the armed forces, he will not easily relinquish power and shows no sign of limiting presidential terms.”
Monday’s demonstration and previous protests in Togo have been spurred from recent political changes amid the entire West African region where countries are moving from dictatorship to democracy. These movements include the overthrow of Yahya Jammeh in The Gambia and Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso, in addition to the removal of both Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe from office. Today Togo remains to be the last nation of the region with limitless presidential terms and with the same family in power since independence. However, authorities have since proven their reluctance to succumb to the trend towards democracy, shown in 2015 when the country resisted efforts from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which called for a term limit on all West African nations.
The future of Togo is likely to see increased tensions as public support rises for bureaucratic change. Although the future strike demonstrates the potential for peaceful means to create change, the history of violence under the current military dictatorship suggests that violent conflict will occur in Togo. This is supported by Muhammad Dan Suleiman who observed that “While the Gnassingbé dynasty’s repressive police state has eroded government’s legitimacy, the dynasty’s duration suggests it will not easily succumb to pressure.” Nonetheless, the democratization of surrounding countries in the region is suggestive of potential for change as the combined pressures from nearby nations, in addition to civil protestation, may incite the desired governmental reforms.
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