Women’s March was also held in Togo – but against a different dictator

Ismail Akwei January 21, 2018
Togolese women marching against their president -- Photo: Farida Nabourema

As tens of thousands of women in the U.S. marched in dozens of states to denounce the unpopular and extreme decisions of Donald Trump, thousands of women in the West African country of Togo marched same day demanding the resignation of their president Faure Gnassingbe.

The Togolese women dressed in black and marched in the streets of the capital Lome with placards calling for an end to the 50-year-old Gnassingbe presidency which was passed on from father to son.

They also called for the restoration of democracy, release of arrested protesters and an end to corruption and human rights abuses among a litany of issues that sparked ongoing series of opposition protests since August 2017.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre hailed the women for joining the 14-party opposition coalition to fight for their rights. “Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game,” he was quoted by AFP.

President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005, who had spent 38 years in office. He was a minister at the time of his father’s death and was sworn in as acting president by the military instead of the President of the National Assembly.

He resigned a few days later after 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.

The country’s 14-party opposition coalition called for him to step down via nearly weekly protests that started with violence in August. Togolese security forces killed at least 16 protesters while hundreds were injured, arrested and jailed. Internet connection was cut and intermittently.

They also demanded the return of the original 1992 Constitution that stipulates a two five-year term limit for presidents as well as a two-round voting system. Also, 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 deaths and damage to properties drove the Gnassingbe government to table a bill in parliament to amend the constitution, adopt measures including the withdrawal of plain-clothed security officers and the embedding of members of the civil society to observe the protests.

The opposition rejected the draft bill meant to modify the controversial Article 59 of the constitution. It excluded the clause that says “no one can serve more than two terms” which the opposition believe is a ploy to allow Faure to stand for a fourth term in 2020.

The current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commented on the protests once saying he is an elected leader yet social media is being used to portray him as a “bloodthirsty dictator”.

Presidents of Ghana and Guinea, Nana Akufo Addo and Alpha Conde have respectively called for talks between the government and the opposition to solve the crisis.

Unlike Togo, the Women’s Marches in the United States aim to voice out opposition against Trump on his one-year anniversary of his inauguration and to support the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment.

Both marches have one thing in common: opposition against dictator-like leaders.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: June 19, 2018


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