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Togo: Violent Police Clash With ‘Save Togo’ Protesters

A peaceful march by the ‘Save Togo‘ collective [fr] on June 12, 2012, degenerated into a stand off with security forces. Around 120 injured were recorded [fr] during clashes over 12-13 June. Amongst other things, the protesters are calling for the implementation of recommendations made by the National Commission on Human Rights relating to torture and wide ranging constitutional change.

Togo is in a period of political instability following the widely disputed 2005 presidential elections, which saw the arrival in power of Faure Gnassingbé Eyadema [fr], son of former president Gnassingbé Eyadema. Other demonstrations are scheduled for the upcoming week.

Repression of the demonstrations on June 13, 2012, by the 'Save Togo' collective. Used with permission

Repression of the demonstrations on June 13, 2012, by the 'Save Togo' collective. Used with permission

The birth of a collective

The ‘Save Togo’ collective brings together several political and human rights organisations. It was created on April 4 in Lomé and totals 17 groups, including 7 organisations dedicated to the defense of human rights [fr]. The collective was born out of an appraisal of Togo's political, economic and social situation [fr]:

Le processus démocratique amorcé au Togo depuis les années 1990 peine à se concrétiser faute d’alternance au sommet de l’Etat. Ainsi notre pays continue de traverser une crise enrôlée dans un cycle infernal sans précédent et sur tous les plans.

Au plan politique, les accords issus de multiples négociations n’ont jamais trouvé d’application effective et efficiente. Le plus inquiétant est l’intrusion fréquente et violente dans le débat politique de certains éléments des forces armées togolaises, réels détenteurs du pouvoir politique, foulant aux pieds leurs obligations républicaines d’impartialité et de neutralité.

Au plan institutionnel, force est de constater que toutes les institutions de la République chargées de réguler la vie démocratique et de contrôler l’action du pouvoir sont malheureusement instrumentalisées.

Au plan économique, le pillage systématique des ressources de l’Etat par un groupuscule de personnes pendant des décennies a fait basculer le pays dans un processus effréné d’endettement.

Au plan social, cette confiscation des richesses du pays par une minorité a plongé plus de 65% de la population dans une misère effroyable; la grande majorité des ménages ne pouvant ni s’offrir plus d’un repas par jour, ni s’assurer les soins de santé primaires, ni subvenir aux besoins de scolarisation de leurs enfants.

Les violations massives des Droits de l’Homme ont atteint leur summum avec les pratiques de torture et de toutes les autres formes de traitements cruels, inhumains et dégradants, interdites et réprimées par les Conventions des Nations Unies que le Togo a pourtant ratifiées depuis plus de 25 ans

The process of democratisation begun in Togo in the 1990s is unable to become a reality due to the constant changes at the highest levels of the state. Thus, every aspect of life in our country is stuck in an unprecedented and never-ending crisis.

On a political level, agreements reached over the course of multiple negotiations have never been effectively or efficiently implemented. Most worrying are the frequent and violent intrusions into the political debate made by certain factions within the Togolese armed forces, the real holders of political power, making a mockery of their republican obligation to neutratily and impartiality.

At an institutional level, it must be concluded that all the institutions of the Republic tasked with regulating political life and overseeing the actions of power are, unfortunately, being manipulated.

At an economic level, the systematic pillaging of State resources by a tiny minority over many decades has plunged the country into debt.

At a social level, this confiscation of the country’ riches by a minority has plunged more than 65% of the population into abject poverty;  the vast majority of households are not able to eat more than one meal per day nor take care of basic healthcare needs, nor provide for their children's educational needs.

The widespread violation of human rights has reached its peak with the practice of torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, which are forbidden or suppressed under the United Nations Conventions ratified by Togo over 25 years ago.

The objectives set by the collective are explained by Fabbi Kouassi in his blog, which describes the creation of the group [fr]. According to Kouassi, the group are demanding:

1) La démission sans délais du gouvernement qui s’est rendu coupable de faux et usage de faux
2) L’identification et la sanction de tous ceux qui ont participé à la falsification du rapport de la CNDH
3) La mise en œuvre effective et dans les meilleurs délais des recommandations formulées par la CNDH dans son rapport authentique
4) L’annulation de toutes les procédures et de tous les procès ayant conduit à l’arrestation et à la condamnation des personnes accusées dans l’affaire d’atteinte à la sûreté intérieure de l’Etat, ainsi que de ceux et celles de toutes les autres personnes torturées à l’ANR
5)Le dédommagement et la réintégration immédiate et sans condition des officiers et hommes de troupes injustement radiés de l’armée dans l’affaire de tentative d’atteinte à la sûreté intérieure de l’Etat
6)La révocation de tous les magistrats ayant connu des affaires dans lesquelles les personnes mises en cause, ont fait cas, de manière concordante, précise et persistante, d’actes de torture et autres formes de traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants sur leur personne à l’ANR et ailleurs, mais qui ont continué les procédures jusqu’à condamnation.

1)The immediate resignation of the government, who are guilty of forgery and the use of false documents
2) The identification and sanction of all those who participated in the falsification of the report by the CNDH (National Commission for Human Rights)
3) The effective and speedy implementation of the recommendations formulated by the CNDH in its true and authentic report
4) The annulment of all procedures and trials that have lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone accused of involvement in the alleged attack on the internal security of the State, as well as those of any other person tortured by the  ANR [Togo's intelligence agency]
5) The compensation and immediate and unconditional reinstatement of officers and troops unjustly discharged from the army as a result of the alleged attack on the internal security of the State
6)  The dismissal of all magistrates who were aware of cases in which those put on trial clearly, consistently and specifically reported having undergone torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading forms of treatment by the ANR and others, but continued with the trial to the point of sentencing.

Here is the video clip announcing the creation of the collective:

Since its creation, the collective has organised several marches calling for democracy and respect for human rights. Sylvio Combey from Lomé recalls one of the marches that took place on May 24 [fr]:

Les trois principaux points au menu de cette marche selon Me Adjare sont notemmeent la non prise en compte par l’exécutif togolais des recommandations de la CNDH relatives aux actes de tortures, deux projets de lois déposés à l’Assemblée nationale portant loi électorale et le découpage élecotrale mais aussi, le retour des neuf députés ANC exclus de l’Assemblée nationale. Pour le Collectif sauvons le Togo, cette attitude du gouvernement viole une diposition de la CEDAO interdisant toute modification des textes électoraux six mois avant les élections sans consensus.

The three main focuses of this march, according to Me Adjare, are most importantly the ignoring by the Togolese executive of the CNDH recommendations relating to acts of torture, two proposed laws submitted to the National Assembly on electoral law and constituency divides and also, the return of nine ANC elected members who have been exluded from the National Assembly.  For the Save Togo collective, the government's attitude is in breach of the position of CEDEAO (Economic Community of West African States), which forbids any modification of electoral legislation within six months of an election and without consensus.

Violent clashes with police

The marches organised by the collective have been violently repressed for the security forces. Combey describes the toll of the clashes [fr]:

Au deuxième jourde la révolution, la manifestation du Collectif « Sauvons le Togo » a tourné au vinaigre. Des policiers ont réprimé à coups de grenades lacrymogènes et sans merci les paisibles populations qui sesont amassées au quartier Déckon, en guise de protestation. Le Collectif dit dénombrer 54 blessés dont 24 graves dans la journée du 12 juin 2012, 65 blessés dont 32 graves. Aussi,15 personnes arrêtées le 12 juin 2012, 63 personnes le 13 juin 2012, dont une douzaine au sein de l’église saint Augustin d’Amoutivé à en croire le CST qui affirme que l’ensemble du matériel de sonorisation déployé surles lieux a été emporté et saisi. La situation emmène le coordinateur du CST, Zeus Ajavon a faire durcir le ton [..] A cet effet, le gouvernement a demandé au ministre de la sécurité etde la protection civile de« prendre des mesures additionnelles pour assurer la sécurité des biens et des personnes, ainsi que la liberté de circuler »Une réaction aussi gauche qui risque de faire enliser beaucoup plus la crise. La révolution Kpatima est en marche.

On the second day of the revolution, the demonstration by the ‘Save Togo’ collective turned sour. In protest, the police mercilessly held back the crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered in the Déckon quarter with tear gas grenades. The collective says it counted 54 injured, including 24 seriously, over the course of 12 June, 65 injured, including 32 seriously. Also, 15 people arrested on June 12, 2012, and 63 on June 13, 2012, including a dozen in the church of St Augustin of Amoutivé according to the CST (Togolese Workers Confederation) who have confirmed that all of the sound equipment brought to the location was seized and taken away.    The situation led the CST coordinator, Zeus Ajavon, to harden his tone [...]  To this effect, the government has demanded the Security and Civil Protection Minister to “take additional measures to ensure the security of the population, as well as their freedom of movement”. A reaction clumsy enough to risk still further entrenching the crisis. The Kpatima revolution has begun.

Photos taken during the clashes testified to the violence of the clashes [Warning: Graphic Content].

One video shows the police severely beating a demonstrator [Warning: Graphic Content]:

On Twitter the Togolese activists are using the hashtag #occupyLome to share information on the demonstrations in real time.

Wilfried Toussine from Togo tweeted:

@Toussine: “Police fire tear gas at protesters in Togo capital http://azstarnet.com/news/world/police-fire-tear-gas-at-protesters-in-togo-capital/article_8b6569ec-0f14-5ed0-acd7-1fc206ac483c.html //#leguede #occupylome

Philoticus adds:

@Philoticus: #Togo: Il faut pousser le tyranneau vers la sortie, ici et maintenant http://bit.ly/MjPdpJ #TGInfo #Togo #OccupyLome

@Philoticus:#Togo: Tyranny must be forced out, here and now http://bit.ly/MjPdpJ #TGInfo #Togo #OccupyLome

And shares a worrying piece of news form one of the leaders of the march, M Célestin Agbogan:

@Philoticus: #TOGO:  M. Célestin Agbogan malmené et interpellé – La #FIDH réagit http://bit.ly/MjPWqS #TGInfo #OccupyLome

@Philoticus: #TOGO:  M. Célestin Agbogan mistreated and arrested – La #FIDH réagit http://bit.ly/MjPWqS #TGInfo #OccupyLome

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