Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem reflects on Togo

The Situation in Togo since the death of its long-term
dictator, Gnassingbe Eyadema, has not shown any sign
of being resolved. The sub regional organisation,
ECOWAS, backed by the African Union and supported by
the United Nations and the EU has led global opinion
in rejecting the succession of Baby Eyadema. All the
right noises have been made and in an unprecedented
consensus, Faure Eyadema has been told by the Togolese
and  anybody or country that matter including former
colonial power, France, which continues to have
political influence, in its former colonies that this
time around the answer is Non!

However strengthened by Togo's army which is nothing
but a personal militia of his father Baby Eyadema and
the ancient forces of reaction built by his father
have continued to ignore the wishes of their people
and  advise of neighbours and the rest of the
international community. Their tactics is very simple.
They intend to sit it out hoping that with time their
unconstitutional change may become a fait accompli and
all concerned will shut up so that even if he is not
accepted by de jeur he will remain leader by de facto.
After all his Father even when democratisation through
Movement for Sovereign National Conferences in many
former French colonies in the 19990s swept aside
fellow dictators, despite Local and international
opinion against his rule, managed to weather the
storm. Share longevity in power, divided opposition,
ruthless capacity to intimidate, co-opt or eliminate
the opposition helped him to maintain iron grip on
power for almost 4 decades. He also relied on liberal
exploitation of ethnic and regional fault lines to
divide his opponents and the country in addition to
presenting  himself as the only ˜strong leader who can
hold the country together'. So the choice remained:
Its either Chaos or me. Sadly this last tactic still
has echoes in a few countries in Africa.

However Baby Eyadema cannot be as lucky as his father
for many reasons. One, the Togolese people brutalised
and silenced by his father and his henchmen for many
years have remained consistent in fighting for their
democratic rights against all the odds. They fought
his aged father to a standstill often betrayed by
opportunistic and factionalised opposition parties and
leaders. Eyadema was a lame duck leader for many years
but held on to power by subterfuge, intimidation,
corruption and luck in his choice of formal opponents.
It was not just raw power and its use that helped him
to remain in charge. The fact that most people under
the age of forty did not know any other leader other
than Eyadema conspired to create a psychological
situation of ˜if not him who can'? His son does not
have all these advantages but more importantly the
Togolese were no longer afraid of his Dad by the time
he gave up the ghost. The opposition is not just
within the political class but spread across the whole
society with Civil Society Forces showing ingenuity,
courage and determination in fighting for democratic

Two, the sub regional situation in West Africa has
changed in favour of democratic constitutional rule.
Related to this is also a willingness by the regional
body, ECOWAS, to intervene in the affairs of erring
member states. Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Ivory Coast
are clear examples of the region acting together
sometimes with great contradictions to help stabilise
a neighbouring country. This precedence compels ECOWAS
countries to reverse the Military coup in Togo. Three,
what is further strengthening the regional resolve is
the qualitative changes that have occurred at the
continental level through the more proactive
provisions of the charter of the new African Union.
The Act of Union makes it clear that it is not only
Military coups that are no longer tolerated but also
all unconstitutional changes of government. From 1999
when the Algiers principles were unanimously adopted
the continental body has shown its willingness to put
its money where its mouth is. The first casualty was
the hapless military regime of General Gueye in Cote
d'Ivore. The OAU refused to recognise his regime
precipitating the uncompleted transition that forced
the General out of power. Since that first example
Central Africa, Madagascar, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and
Principe, Equatorial Guinea and Liberia, with
different outcomes, have provided opportunities to
test the principle. Whatever the contradictions it is
now clear that the old narrow definition of
sovereignty and territorial integrity that operated as
˜leave my victims to me and I leave yours to you" a
Dictator's Manifesto, is no longer operational in
Africa. We have moved from non-interference into
˜non-indifference".  In 1980, Samuel Doe assassinated
the then Chairman of the OAU, William Tolbert, and he
was able to sit in the next summit because it was
considered ˜internal affair"! This is no longer
possible in Africa today therefore the internal
affairs of all members states have become legitimate
concern of the AU.

Three, the international environment has also changed
dramatically. The cold war is over even if it has
mutated into another kind of war, no less intense.
However the old practice of ˜their bastard and our
bastard" that turned every dictator into a bride is
becoming obsolete. SAP, IMF/World Bank and
Globalisation have delivered African countries to
imperialism in a way that makes it increasingly
insignificant who is in power, they will follow the
neo-liberal hegemony. Therefore interests of former
colonial powers are no longer tied to that of one
individual or group in a particular country. Though
there are still notions of ˜strong man "or ˜the best
they have got" that feed the ego of reluctant
democrats across this continent, the tolerance level
for unreconstructed dictatorship and personal rule has
become very high. Eyadema relied on France for most of
his rule and when he had contradictions with France he
could flirt with the Eastern bloc but all these are
gone now.

We are also lucky that Togo has not descended into the
kind of chaos that the prolonged exit of Mobutu and
the inraregional mess that followed his his exit.
Therefore he can not hope to do a Kabila Jr and get
away with it.

The odds are weighted against Baby Eyadema and the
Togolese army. It should  and would not not stand. If
they go peacefully that will be good for Togo and the
rest of Africa but if they refuse, targeted sanctions
and swift military intervention when necessary should
be deployed to get rid of them. It will be a signal to
other political megalomaniacs who think that their
countries are their personal property to be ruled in
perpetuity by themselves or their offspring that
Africans no longer accept self proclaimed divine mis

ECOWAS has to learn from the horor of Ivory coast
where regional pressure forced out General
Gueye but produced an inconclusive outcome that is
still wasting that once prosperous country. While
pressures must be unrelenting in restoring
constitutional rule in Togo immediately there is a
need for wider engagement with the broad democratic
forces: ploitical parties, Civil Society groups,
professional associations, Trade Unions, etc so that
Eyadema's people do not exploit the situation to
create chaos.
Togo is not just a test for ECOWAS but an opportunity
to show the rest of the world that Africa is no longer
prepared to continue 'business as usual'.