Togo’s Fight for Independence

In his book Persistent Poverty, Jamaican economist George Beckford writes:

The distinction between “constitutional” and “political” independence is one that is important to recognize. The former refers to the trappings of independence—constitutions, flags, anthems, a seat in the United Nations, and so on. Real political independence derives from the ability and power to control and manipulate the environment for the benefit of the people of the independent state.

The end of colonialism for many countries brought about constitutional independence, but not true political independence. This was especially the case in Africa where African nations were taken over by a class of leaders that continued to serve the interests of the former colonial powers. The few leaders that were not so willing to go along with this agenda were eliminated. Sylvanus Olympio, Togo’s first president, was among those who were eliminated. He was assassinated in 1963. Sylvanus Olympio wanted Togo to have a currency of its own rather than continuing to use the French colonial currency. France had other plans, however, and they supported the coup that killed Olympio. There was yet another coup in 1967 which brought Gnassingbé Eyadema into power. France supported Gnassingbé Eyadema throughout his dictatorship because Eyadema served their purposes. As a soldier in the French army Eyadema fought to secure France’s colonial interests and as the president of Togo Eyadema continued to defend France’s colonial interests.

Upon Gnassingbé Eyadema’s death in 2005, the military swore in his son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president. This action was a violation of Togo’s constitution, but this did not matter to the French were just as eager to support Faure as they were to support his father. During the fifty years that the Gnassingbé family has ruled Togo, Togo has been one of the poorest countries in the world. The people of Togo have also endured all sorts of human rights abuses. Such abuses have included being killed, tortured, and imprisoned under horrible conditions.

For years the people of Togo have been resisting the dictatorial neo-colonial regime that oppresses them. This resistance continues to grow and gain momentum, as more and more Togolese are taking to the streets to demand the removal of Faure. A dialogue is currently being prepared, but at this point there is nothing left to discuss. The people of Togo want Faure gone and are not willing to compromise on this issue. The only acceptable outcome for the Togolese is for Faure to leave. The current struggle being waged in Togo right now isn’t simply a struggle for the removal of Faure, however. It is a struggle for real and meaningful independence. It is a struggle to ensure that Togo will be controlled by the Togolese people, and not by foreign powers and their dictatorial puppets.

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