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Togolese lawmakers ‘gift’ president 10 more years to stay in power until 2030

May 10, 2019 at 09:37 am | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Contributor

May 10, 2019 at 09:37 am | Opinions & Features

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe - AFP

In the past two years, the French-speaking West African country of Togo has been hit with series of anti-government protests against the over 50-year rule of the Gnassingbe family since a 1967 coup which has been passed on from father to son.

President since 2005, the protesters are demanding for the resignation of 52-year-old Faure Gnassingbe who immediately assumed power after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema. They also want among other things the return of the original 1992 Constitution that stipulates a two five-year term limit for presidents.

Togolese parliament

To satisfy their demands, the Togolese parliament revised 30 amended articles of the constitution on Thursday including a law that reinstates the two five-year term limits but allows Faure Gnassingbe to stay in power for two more terms in addition to his already served three terms which end next year.

90 out of 91 members of the one-sided parliament without a minority voted in favour of the law which means Faure would rule until 2030 considering the fact that elections in Togo have always steered in favour of the ruling party.

Article 75 of the amended constitution also declares that the president remains a lifetime member of the Senate and is free from prosecution over any crime committed during his presidency, notes Togolese activist Farida Bemba Nabourema.

“The National Assembly has decided to transform Togolese citizens into subjects of his majesty Gnassingbe,” said opposition member Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson in a statement cited by Reuters calling on the opposition to unite.

“The National Assembly has decided to transform Togolese citizens into subjects of his majesty Gnassingbe,” said opposition member Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson in a statement cited by Reuters calling on the opposition to unite.

Protests erupted in 2017 over term limits resulting in the death of dozens of civilians at the hands of Togolese security forces. Last December, the opposition boycotted legislative elections leaving the parliament without minority seats.

The country’s 14-party opposition coalition heaped pressure on the president via nearly weekly protests and the government in turn, jailed hundreds and intermittently cut internet connection.

The protesters were also demanding a two-round voting system, the introduction of diaspora voting, independent inquiry into the deaths of protesters and the delivery of justice, the immediate release of political detainees and the cessation of arrests and persecution.

The Gnassingbe government was forced to table a bill in parliament that amended the constitution but excluded the controversial Article 59 that says “no one can serve more than two terms” which the opposition believed was a ploy to allow Faure to stand for a fourth term in 2020. Indeed, that was the case.

President Faure Gnassingbe was sworn in as acting president by the military instead of the President of the National Assembly after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005. Faure was a minister before the death of his father who had spent 38 years in office.

He resigned a few days after he was sworn in following pressure from the international and regional communities. Faure stood for the disputed 2005 elections months later and won, leading to deadly protests and displacement of thousands of people.

The elections were described as fraudulent by election observer groups and the protests in 2005 were met with violence by the security forces leaving over a hundred people killed and several opposition members arrested.

At the end of his mandate, the 1992 constitution which stipulates a two five-year term limit for a president was set aside by a one-sided parliament for Faure to continue his third term bid in 2015.

This trend which is popular in other African countries has not changed in Togo. In Chad, the parliament reinstated presidential term limits last year but allowed 66-year-old President Idriss Deby, who has been in power for 38 years to stay in power until 2033.

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