In New Year address, politically besieged Togo’s president seeks dialogue

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe

PARIS, France––Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has called on opposition leaders and groups demonstrating against his family prolong rule to “dialogue.”

Making the remarks in his New Year address late Wednesday, the Togolese leader said: “Dialogue must remain the preferred way of resolving disagreements between political actors.”

The Togolese leader speaking on national television insisted on his contentious strategic to revise the country’s constitution.

“I have no doubt that even today we are able to explore all avenues of dialogue and exchange of ideas to overcome grievances,” he said.

President Faure Gnassingbe has ruled Togo since 2005 after the death of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyedema who ruled heavy handed ruled the tiny West African country for 38 years.

Although President Faure Gnassingbe insists on adhering to constitutional revision as a sign that he is listening to the views of the opposition and the people of Togo, the idea of revision has been flatly rejected by leading opposition groups and leaders, arguing it would not be retroactive, meaning that Gnassingbe could run again in 2020 and 2025.

The tension in Togo has drawn the attention of West African leaders who are concerned about instability in the country. In November last year, several West African leaders urged President Faure Gnassingbe, who is currently serving as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to enter talks facilitated by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and Guinea’s Alpha Conde, who is also chairman of the African Union.

Despite these regional involvements, the mediation talks failed to commence, especially so since the main opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre has demanded “measures for de-escalation,” including the release of protestors who have been detained and the withdrawal of security forces in the country’s north.

The political crisis in the country has already taken the lives of 16 people, according to sources. Several public facilities and private houses have been ransacked and burned. These actions have prompted the president to issue a strong warning.

“The perpetrators and perpetrators of acts of violence, destruction, and killings must be sought and subjected to the law, and we owe it to the victims, to all the victims,” said Gnassingbe.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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