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Togo: Fragile Truce Emerges After Five Weeks of Student Protests

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

West African country Togo's students’ struggle for better education conditions is now in its fifth week and despite a recent truce, tensions remains high in the capital Lomé.

A wind of appeasement seemed to blow on the demonstrations organized by the Mouvement pour l'Épanouissement des Étudiants Togolais – MEET (Movement for the Fulfillment of Togolese Students), when students managed to obtain from authorities the reinstatement [fr] of the president of their association on June 30. Abou Seidou, a student of the University of Lomé, had been previously expelled for allegedly causing troubles on the campus.

This reinstatement was expected to open the way to negotiations. Despite this first symbolic victory however, and despite the subsequent call from MEET to not demonstrate on Friday July 1, 2011, a fringe of the student population decided to maintain the pressure on the government and went to protest.

The July 1, 2011 demonstration in Lomé, Togo. Image by Morgan Coolpot Bello on Facebook.

The July 1, 2011 demonstration in Lomé, Togo. Image by Morgan Coolpot Bello on Facebook.

Charles Le Bon, a local blogger [fr], describes in a post written on the following day the events of the  July 1, 2011, demonstration. According to him:

en craignant que cette journée ne soit un vendredi noir, vu le soutien de la quasi totalité des parti politiques, de la société civile et des organisations de défenses des droits de l’homme, le gouvernement est revenu dans la nuit du jeudi 30 juin sur la décision d’exclure pour six (6) ans le président du MEET.

Fearing that this day would be a Black Friday, considering the support from almost all the political parties, civil society and human rights defense organisations, the government went back on its decision to expel the president of MEET for six years.

A violent scene showing security forces beating up a student was filmed on July 1 and posted on YouTube on July 4, by Sylvio Combey, a Togolese journalist. Combey claims that he also was beaten up by public forces while shooting the video. At 0:25 minutes you can hear a policeman, asking him in French to hand over his camera, which the journalist refuses to do, saying “Why, because I am working?”:

Meanwhile, Togolese students still have not won out their main demands for better education conditions, among them an increase in and the payment of their grants.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

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