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Open Letter to Obasanjo on Togo
By Lionel Akpabie,
President-in-exile, Togolese Student Union For Democracy
(Thursday, March 10, 2005)
Togolese Student Union For Democracy
1925 W. Willow Branch Lane
St. Augustine, FL 32092
Object: Concerns over elections in Togo
As Togolese students overseas, we are voicing our vigorous concerns over the prospect of a twisted electoral process that highjacked the very democracy that your Excellency and others have rightly encouraged in our continent. Togo is clearly a test case for African Union in general and ECOWAS in particular to demonstrate that power, the rule of laws and sovereignty reside with the people. The democratic process in Africa will suffer a mortal wound if elections in Togo are not based on equal electoral competition that are open to all without artificial barriers designed especially to prevent some candidates from standing while giving undue advantages to other candidates.
Let us not forget that in Togo many opponents were forced to flee their country not because of political trickery but as a result of political violence. The most serious case remains Mr. Gilchrist Olympio who was seriously wounded on May 5, 1992 by a military group led by Colonel Ernest GNASSINGBE. He has since lived in exile and expressed many times his desire to return to his homeland, but as it was well documented under the late tyrant, it was impossible. The organization of free and fair election in Togo must be interpreted according to the terms and intends of the voters of the 1992 constitution and with regard to history, tradition, and precedent, and with due regard for its purpose and function in the constitutional design.
We should also notice that the subsequent changes dumped into the constitution were the work of non-representative legislative bodies lacking legitimacy and standards of decency that mark the democratic nature of a maturing society. It would certainly offend many Togolese citizens to be refused the right to vote for the candidates of their choice and dream and it would absolutely challenge civilized standards of decency to run elections in Togo knowing that the electoral laws are flaws, that the constitutional court and other agencies having authority in organizing the elections can not bear independent judgments.
Moreover, it is absolutely unacceptable for many of us to wait peacefully for more than three decades for a nonviolent transition in Togo to be slapped in our face with this type of elections. It is this kind of unprincipled notions that later incite others to look for other forms of struggles. If the imbalance of the present electoral system is not rectified, it would certainly be used to eliminate political opponents based on the wrongful use of the laws. The only acceptable successful election is one that permits the sovereign people of Togo to choose their own leaders through free and fair elections. That now needs to become the aim of your involvement in Togo.
Recent events in Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa emphatically rejected the suggestion that we ought not be organizing these types of crooked and dishonest elections. It would be the ultimate in irony in the very fact that the inappropriateness of the coup d’ état is been recognized through forfeiture and ridged elections. The current atmosphere cannot show national consensus in favor of fair and free elections in Togo. Because free and fair elections are the most profound forms of democratic _expression, and it ought to be organized with accepted standards of democracy. There are a number of reasons why elections should now be organized in Togo, yet the serious imperfections infused in the electoral machine could not for the sake of so called stability outweigh the fact that some of the conditions of the elections are fundamentally undemocratic by nature.
These questions render suspect any elections, and if we go ahead in this context, the result is surely a recipe for a much more chaotic and unknown tomorrow for the people of Togo. We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of civil war and ethnic cleansing in Togo, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of your own country and the whole Africa. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we will put Africa’s future and development back to the Stone Age. The consequence of such inequity will by itself have a seriously aggravating effect, and from what we know, its impact could not be predicted.
S.E. M. Alpha Oumar Konaré
S.E. M. Patrick Kayumba Mazimhaka
UN, Togo & International Media
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