Togolese protesters march, hold sex strikes for democracy 2012-2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
June
2012
to
August
2013
Location and Goals
Country: 
Togo
Location City/State/Province: 
Lomo
Location Description: 
Neighborhoods throughout the capital city of Togo
Goals: 
To mandate limits on President Faure Gnassingbe's time in office, to roll back unilaterally-instituted electoral reforms, and to enact electoral reforms that would be more democratic.
 

For 38 years, Togo was ruled by a military dictator, General Gnassingbe Eyadema. Following Eyadema’s death in 2005, the military installed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as President, in what the African Union has denounced as a military coup d’etat.

Although Faure Gnassingbe won democratic elections in 2005 and 2010, both election results have been called into question amid allegations of fraud and intimidation. Togo’s next legislative elections were slated to take place in October 2012, although no date had been announced.

In June 2012, the National Assembly passed a suite of electoral reforms, which included increasing the number of deputies in the legislature by 10. Opposition groups, including the Let’s Save Togo Coalition of civil society groups and opposition political parties, denounced the changes as a power-grab by Gnassingbe’s party.

On 12-14 June, the Let’s Save Togo Coalition staged protests in Togo’s capital city, Lome. On the second day of the demonstration, police dispersed the several thousand peaceful demonstrators with tear gas and chased after protesters fleeing the gas.

Police alleged that their actions were in response to “youths” setting bonfires, but reports do not directly link those individuals to the Let’s Save Togo Coalition or its leadership. Police occupied the square on 14 June and dispersed crowds that were attempting to continue the protest.

Coalition leader Zeus Ajavon announced that protest leaders were asking protesters to continue their action by staying home the following day, a Friday. The Coalition claimed police injured 119 protesters over the course of the three-day protest, while police claimed 22 officers were injured.

Following the protests, police arrested three protest leaders, two journalists, and 51 others. Police also reportedly smashed down the door of former prime minister and Let’s Save Togo leader Agbeyome Kodjo, detaining him for several hours and questioning him about the 12-14 June protests.

The Let’s Save Togo Coalition announced a march in Deckon, a major commercial center in the capital city of Lome, during a three-day protest spanning 21-23 August.

The government then announced a ban on protests in commercial areas.

Several thousand people gathered for the first day of the Coalition’s march and the people protested on each of the three days.

100 police officers barricaded the commercial Deckon neighborhood and barred entrance to the marchers. Police again deployed tear gas against protesters, and around 100 people were injured by police officers over the course of the three-day protest period. Police detained 119 protesters overnight, releasing them after conducting identity checks. Police also questioned an additional 8 individuals that they had found carrying knives before turning them over to prosecutors.

The Coalition organized another march for two days later, 25 August, this time issuing a declaration that they were acting in deliberate defiance of the ban because they believed the government’s authority was illegitimate. The declaration also included the group’s intention to stage sit-ins the following week. The march occurred without incident. Although security forces were present, tear gas was not used.

On 26 August 2012 Isabelle Ameganvi, leader of the women’s wing of the Let’s Save Togo Coalition, announced a weeklong sex strike beginning the following day. Women engaged in the protest refused sex with their husbands unless they agreed to become active in Let’s Save Togo Coalition protest marches and demonstrations.

Police fired tear gas to break up an attempted march and sit-in in the Be-Chateau neighborhood of Lome on 28 August. The action was meant to be the first of four days of sit-ins that the Coalition had planned.

Government officials led a series of negotiations for electoral reform in early September 2012. Although the governmental recommendations were unofficial pending parliamentary approval, the government proposed limiting presidents to two terms in office.

Opposition groups, including the Let’s Save Togo Coalition, rejected the recommendation because of a loophole that could have permitted Gnassingbe to run for two additional terms, potentially staying in office until 2025. The talks ended on 13 September following the opposition’s rejection of the proposal.

On 15 September, the Coalition called off their planned protest in the face of a violent militia mob. Several dozen people armed with sticks and machetes occupied the space that the protesters had announced they would be demonstrating in. Around 20 police officers reportedly looked on and watched as the violent group threatened protesters, bystanders, and journalists, pulled a motorcyclist from his vehicle, and reportedly injured a number of protesters who had arrived prior to the action’s cancellation. No arrests were made.

A mob leader told journalists that the group was acting independently and was not a political organization. He identified the mob as a neighborhood group trying to prevent the protest in order to protect elderly residents from tear gas. A simultaneous pro-government protest in a different neighborhood of Lome occurred without incident.

Despite the ban on protests in commercial areas and recent anti-protester violence, the women’s wing of Let’s Save Togo executed a street protest in Lome on 20 September 2012. Several thousand women dressed in red clothing marched through the streets carrying placards saying, “Togo women, we know that Togo is in danger” and then rallied in a public square. Protest organizers at the rally, including Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, declared their support for the limitation of presidential power to two five-year terms—so long as this measure would also be applied to Faure Gnassingbe’s cumulative time in office.

The coalition staged a three-day protest on 25-27 September. The Coalition publicly stated their commitment to continuing nonviolent protest methods, negotiated the march’s routes with security forces ahead of time, and agreed to allow security forces to accompany the protesters in order to prevent security forces from using tear gas again.

On 5 October 2012, police officers in Lome assaulted Justin Anani, a journalist for Le Crocodile, knocking him unconscious. Anani, who had been covering the police crackdowns on Let’s Save Togo protests, spent several days in the hospital recovering from the attack. Police also fired teargas on protesters.

Police forces attacked protesters at a 10 January 2013 demonstration. They fired tear gas on the crowds, and injured four journalists and an unknown number of protesters.

Two major fires took place on 10 and 12 of January at the Kara and Lome public markets, respectively, causing massive property damage but no fatalities. Police detained Gerard Adja, a leader of the Let’s Save Togo Collective, beginning on 13 January 2013. The police did not charge him with a crime, and human rights lawyers that the Coalition sent to assist Adja denounced his arrest as illegal.

The government denounced the market fires as “an act of violence” and arrested opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre on 12 March 2013 in connection with the January 2013 fires.

Let’s Save Togo Coalition protesters blocked the entrance to the gendarmerie where police held Fabre, who came in second against Faure Gnassingbe in the 2010 presidential election. Police dispersed protesters with tear gas.

On 7 June 2013 the government finally announced the date of the legislative elections. Spokesman Yacoubou Hamaou stated that elections were scheduled for 21 July and that the government was pushing back the deadline for submitting candidates (originally 10 June) to 16 June. The government later pushed the date back further in the face of continued opposition protests, including a planned elections boycott by members of the Let’s Save Togo Coalition and supporters.

Coalition members agreed to call off the boycott after the government agreed to poll monitoring, giving coalition members access to polling places, and government financing for political campaigns of coalition members.

Elections ultimately took place on 25 July 2013. Some polling stations opened late, or did not have ballots ready when they were opened. However, African Union elections observers declared on 27 July that they found the elections fair and valid. Togo’s constitutional court declared the election results valid on 12 August.

The court rejected five appeals and said that there was insufficient evidence of fraud or intimidation to merit a re-examination of the election results. Gnassingbe’s party won a two-thirds majority in the legislature, winning 62 out of 91 open seats. The Let’s Save Togo Coalition won 19 seats, including 7 out of 10 seats for the capital city of Lome.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Isabelle Ameganvi cited Liberian women’s 2003 sex strike against civil war as an inspiration for the nonviolent sex strike by the women’s wing of Let’s Save Togo. (1)

Sources: 
Agence France-Presse. Togo police occupy rally site after two days of protests. 14 June 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo detains 3 protest leaders, 53 others after demos. 17 June 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo briefly detains ex-PM Kodjo in wake of protests. 19 June 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo protest ban sets up showdown with opposition. 16 August 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Several thousand gather for Togo demo police vow to block. 21 August, 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Thousands march against Togolese government. 25 August 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togolese women declare sex strike to get protest backing. 26 August 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo authorities fire tear gas at latest protest. 28 August 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo opposition rejects government’s electoral reform plans. 13 September 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Violent mob prevents opposition protest in Togo. 15 September 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Western nations, UN concerned after mob prevents Togo demo. 19 September 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Several thousand women protest in Togo’s capital. 20 September 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo protesters march on final day of three-day demo. 27 September 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo security forces fire teargas on opposition protesters. 5 October 2012.

Agence France-Presse. Togo opposition figure charged over market fires. 13 March 2013.

Agence France-Presse. Togo bans planned opposition protests. 22 May 2013.

Agence France-Presse. African Union observers say Togo vote acceptable. 27 July 2013.

Agence France-Presse. Togo court confirms ruling party win in parliamentary polls. 12 August 2013.

Al Jazeera English. Long-delayed elections open in Togo. 25 July 2013.

allAfrica.com. Thousands protest ahead of elections. 27 August 2012.

allAfrica.com. Togolese reporter attacked by police. 19 October 2012.

allAfrica.com. Togo: Two large markets Kara and Lome ravaged by fire. 17 January 2013.

allAfrica.com. Opposition leader detained without charge in Togo. 18 January 2013.

allAfrica.com. Togo sets date for polls amid torture claims. 10 June 2013.

BBC World News. Togo succession ‘coup’ denounced. 6 February 2005.

Ekou, Blame. Police fire tear gas at protesters in Togo. 12 March 2013. Associated Press.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Mar Firke 23/03/2014