Ms. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,
Mr. EU Commissioner for Development,
In 2009–2011, French-speaking African countries witnessed a wave of presidential elections, whose results were often contested. If democratic transition has in some cases been quite successful, in Niger for example, democratization of the African continent is going at a difficult pace, and some dictatorial regimes have managed to get international “legitimacy” by displaying fake democracy, using vote manipulation. In late 2012 and early 2013, the election schedules happen to be bringing a new wave of elections – general elections, this time. The stake of democratization is shifting from presidential to legislative level, with an emphasis on institution strengthening.
In Togo, after the massacres of 2005, when Faure Gnassingbé came to power, and in agreement with the UN and UNED, the EU brought its support to the country’s electoral process and legitimate state building, through Election Observation Missions and funding. This action indirectly comforted a regime characterized by violent repression, impunity, corruption, and rejection of any political change. Supporting democratization sometimes lost both sense and efficiency. In 2010, the EU funded up to 12.5 million euros for the organization of the presidential election and sent an Observation Mission, and through this budget got European taxpayers involved. The EU was expected to guarantee the results, both as top donor and observer. The conditions in which this election took place would not have been tolerated in democratic EU countries. The EU must act consequently, especially if continuing to fund elections in Togo.
If among the main provisions of the Global and Political Agreement (GPA), signed in Ouagadougou by Togolese power and opposition parties in 2006 – after 22 commitments had been agreed in 2004 with the EU by the Togolese government –, some have been partially implemented, allowing the government to benefit from EU funding, the most important ones, especially those relating to institutional and constitutional reforms failed to be implemented because of the government’s lack of will and its bad faith.
In 2012, the UN severely condemned Togo’s government on the issue of torture, asking it to quickly take steps which should have been taken long ago. The ANR (National Intelligence Agency) being particularly implicated, the UN asked the government to “implement the CNDH (National Human Rights Commission) recommendations regarding allegations of torture and mistreatment in ANR premises and other detention places.” This condemnation demonstrates that the regime which came out of the 2005 massacres didn’t make much progress in building a legitimate state.
No date is certain, but as the Togolese head of state announced in his 2013 New Year address that he wanted to follow a schedule leading to elections in late March 2013, Togo’s general elections should take place approximately 3 years after the presidential election of March 2010. From this time, the populations led by the ANC (National Alliance for Change), the coalition of parties forming the FRAC (Republican Front for Turning Power and Change), and, since May 2012, the CST (“Let’s Save Togo” Collective) and the “Arc-en-ciel” (Rainbow) coalition, have been challenging the results of the 2010 presidential election, and asking for transparency in general elections, to be organized according to international standards. The government led a violent repression of peaceful protest movements, but did not succeed in breaking their dedication to change.
These political parties coalitions are calling for consensually organized general elections, while the government is organizing them alone. On January 1, 2013, the CST indicated that “discussing election related issues is premature if no consensual institutional and constitutional reform is made. Rather, conditions required to open the way to a structured, truthful and sincere dialogue should be sought, … The CST reiterates its proposal of setting up a preparatory committee to agree on the terms of dialogue, in aspects relating to its composition, its functioning and issues to be discussed. Dispassionated talks call for the presence of a mediator, consensually chosen, with the assistance of the international community.”
Like diplomacies of most Western countries, the EU is once again called to witness a biased process. Given the history of European influence in Togo, EU’s will to back up the regime, whose top personalities themselves are at issue, aiming for democracy when the regime doesn’t seem to be sharing democratic values, is something the majority of the Togolese people has never understood. Pursuing such a policy could once again be assimilated to complicity with the dictatorial regime. At the current stage, it is still possible for the EU to adjust the logic of its involvement, and to become a reliable and recognized player of democratization.
The quality of an election’s organization is determined upstream at many levels : its independence from power, electoral roll preparation, quality of the division into constituencies – a blocking point in Togo –, controlling the government’s ways, the opposition’s financial means, freedom of press, courts independence and their functioning in case of police repression. The EU issued recommendations after the 2007 general elections which have never been implemented by the Togolese government. Actually, among the recommendations of the EU Election Observation Missions (EU EOM) of the October 2007 general elections is the recommendation that “seats representativeness in the new legislature must be based on demographic criteria,” in order to put an end to the manifest over-representation of the North in comparison to the South. This imbalance, imposed by an electorally illegitimate regime, forms the basis of the predictable rigging of general elections organized by the government without consulting the opposition. Other similarly minded recommendations have been added in the EU EOM report of 2010, and the opposition is asking for their implementation.
Since the “Arab Spring”, EU policy, whether at Commission or Parliament level, has shifted towards a “more consistent policy regarding authoritarian regimes,” by associating development, human rights, and democracy. The general elections in Togo appear to be an important stake for the continent’s democratization, as it is one of the only countries suffering from a military dictatorship using a democratic guise whose regime could be expelled from power through polls, the opposition having managed to stay electorally strong despite recurring moves to destabilize it. If rightly organized, and their results correctly rendered, the forthcoming polls could bring an end to a deadlock situation and show Togo’s capacity to effect a change in power. The general elections planned in Togo could thus end the dictatorship and give a positive example to other countries. It is then a test for the international community, and especially the EU which, through its experience of Observation Missions, has a possibility of becoming an efficient, quick-acting, recognized supporter of generalized democracy in Africa.
Signatory organizations forming the SLSPA Collective support Togolese democratic forces in putting an end to a clan- and family-centered military dictatorship, the government of Faure Gnassingbé, derived from his father Eyadéma’s regime. They urge the EU to fully weight the stakes and understand the seriousness of the situation in Togo, and consequently face up to its responsibilities. They ask the EU to very urgently demand the Togolese government to undertake the organization of credible general elections, in conformity with already issued recommendations, in agreement with Togo’s real and legitimate opposition, gathered around two political coalitions, the FRAC and Arc-en-Ciel, as well as the CST.
For the SLSPA Collective,