Friday, April 01, 2005

Togo: Seeking Ligitimacy Overseas

This week, Mr. Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, the son of the late President of Togo and president of the 'Rally of the Togolese People Party (RPT)' visited the Kingdom of Morocco, where he was received by the highest levels of the Moroccan government. The official Moroccan media made a brief mention of the visit and published Mr. Gnassingbé’s picture in the company of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. Prior to his travel to Morocco, Mr. Gnassingbé’s previous stops have included Libya and Gabon. If this sounds like a routine visit by an African leader to another, then let us review some background.

Togo's ruler for the past 38 years died earlier this year to a heart attack. Hours after his death, Togo's military high command installed his son, Mr. Gnassingbé, in power and nullified the country's constitutional order. Immediately after, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) denounced such fait accompli by the Togolese military junta and demanded that the country be set on the course of electoral democracy. After much arm wrestling, the son of the deceased ruler accepted to step aside while "elections" are being organized by a parliament that is dominated by his father's political allies. In the meanwhile, Mr. Gnassingbé has been using government assets including official Togolese aircraft to hop on about the continent. The purpose of his travel, I suspect, is to garner official support from foreign leaders for the upcoming election. He is, in other words, in search of legitimacy, only not at home among the Togolese people for, I suspect, he already has his own designs for their vote come election time.

Now, let us forget that Mr. Gnassingbé tried to take power in a coup following his father's death. Let us even assume that he is only a presidential candidate in what would be a fair election in Togo. Furthermore, let us ignore the fact that he is using Togolese state assets to promote himself abroad - an advantage denied to his opponents. To add to that, let us forget that the military junta in power that supports him and his RPT party are imposing their will on the Togolese in a repressive manner. Ok, one more: Let us assume that Mr. Gnassingbé’s ruling party represents the majority ethnic group in Togo (it does not). Assuming all of that, what in the world are other countries doing by receiving him in the middle of an electoral campaign. Is that not interfering in the internal politics of Togo when a foreign government endorses a candidate by granting him an official reception and photo op?

The only explanation I find for this is the decision by some countries in Africa to play hanky-panky with the African Union and/or other strategic alliances within the continent. It is either that or some obscure economic interest that is at play beyond the comprehension of unsuspecting minds. Morocco has no visible or rational interest in endorsing Mr. Gnassingbé by granting him an audience with the King. Morocco needs to play a leadership role in Africa in regards to democratic reform and good governance. This visit by Togo's self-appointed leader does not serve that purpose, nor does it serve Morocco's image within the international community.

Mr. Gnassingbé is free to visit any country he likes, including Morocco. But, he may not use state resources (both those of Togo and those of his host countries) to tour the continent ahead of the elections in Togo, even though it is almost certain that he will be vote-manipulated into power. Mr. Gnassingbé is free to play tourist as much as he wishes, but he ought to consider seeking legitimacy from his own people, not foreign leaders, and to work on erasing the bloody stains left behind by his father's rule. They may choose to fool us, but we choose not to be fooled any longer.


Blogger laurenbove said...

Has anything like this ever happened in the US? I don't think I've heard of a political candidate traveling on behalf of the US during an election, but I could have missed it. (Especially during college...)

Hey Jawad: I've added you to my blogroll. I hope you don't mind.

April 01, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

This sounds a lot like what Putin was trying to do in Ukraine. Fortunately, it didn't work. However, Ukraine is a European country and a U.S. ally, so *some* people had interest in keeping it democratic. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Togo has the same luck. How come this situation reminds me of "Cat's Cradle"?

April 01, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Lauren: Absolutely you can. Thank you.

The problem with the Togo situation is that here is the son of a dictator who himself tried to grab power through undemocratic means traveling into these capitals being received as a head of state without any kind of accountability. The sad part here is that he will be vote-manipulated into power and the rest of the world will watch in vain as that happens. That's because we are full of it. We talk about democracy and human rights but never do what it takes to deny tyrants the corridors of power.

April 02, 2005

Anonymous Nadir said...

We talk about democracy and human rights but never do what it takes to deny tyrants the corridors of power.
::shakes head:: Yes sir, we wait for the problem, then use brute force to patch it with bigger problems.

April 02, 2005


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