The Story of Gnassingbe Eyadema, the ‘Evil’ Dictator Whose Family Ruled Togo for 50 Years
After 50 years of enslavement under the Gnassingbe dynasty, it seems like the Togolese people have finally found their voice.
It was Sunday Adelaja in his book, The Mountain of Ignorance who said: “The great and the mighty that use their assets and power to subjugate people are demonstrating oppression.”
Many years down the line, it is still the same old story of a few evil men using the resources at their disposal to thwart the will of the people in Africa. For how long will men of goodwill continue to watch silently while a few powerful lot trample on the masses with reckless abandon? When will African presidents close the doors of greediness and allow the will of the people prevail?
As hundreds of thousands of Togolese people – men, women, teenage boys and girls – continue to protest violently over the 50-year brutish rule of the Gnassingbe dynasty, my heart bleeds for the country.
More than 20 people have so far died since the protest for the President’s resignation started some weeks ago, with the opposition also asking for a constitutional amendment to limit Presidential terms. Just three days ago, people were left in tears after a 10-year-old boy was killed by security operatives during a protest in Lomé with many others seriously injured.
Spurred by a desperate bid to cling on to power like his late father, President Faure Gnassingbe (who has been in power since 2005), son of the late dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema unleashed the army and police on the people. Security operatives teargassed, clubbed, headbutted, assaulted and brutalized the people all in a bid to retain Faure in power.
Not done, the President cut off internet and social networking access to stop people from reporting the unrest in the country. He also forced foreign journalists out of the country. With all these calculated moves to mute the people, however, the political imbroglio became a confrontation too many for the masses to stomach as they retaliated in a most dangerous way by turning on soldiers in the streets.
In fact, the internet was awash with photos of an angry Togolese woman dragging a soldier on the floor 2 weeks ago like a mere goat to the slaughter house after soldiers had reportedly killed seven protesters. His gun was taken away from him as he hopelessly begged for his life.
The history of the Gnassingbe family and its tasteless rule that spanned half a century is a disaster that stunted the growth of the region leaving 72% of Togo’s rural population below the poverty line (on less than 2U$/day), making it one of the world’s poorest countries in the world, according to a World Bank report. With a population of just over 6million, many had thought that Togo would evolve as a leading industrial nation due to the abundance of natural resources at the country’s disposal.
The history of Togo is littered with chapters of chapters of deep frustration fueled by the dictatorial and greedy instinct of one man whose thirst for power saw him massacre hundreds of his political rivals.
Gnassingbe Eyadema, father of Faure Gnassingbe (the incumbent President of Togo) was among the military men who led the first military coup in West Africa that killed President Sylvanus Olympio in 1963. Shortly after that in 1967, he led another coup as a Colonel forcefully removing President Nicolas Grunitzky to install himself as the President, a position he held for 38 awful years before his sudden demise in 2005 onboard a plane 250 km south of Tunis, Tunisia.
During his 38-year reign, Eyadema plundered the wealth and resources of his people and was reported to be worth millions of dollars. After pocketing the military, he used the Togolese army to commit heinous crimes against the civilian population and perceived political enemies. One of such case is what happened on the 30th of January 1993, when elements of the military went on an 8-hour rampage throughout Lomé, firing indiscriminately and killing at least 12 people. This incident provoked more than 300,000 Togolese to flee Lomé for Benin, Ghana, or the interior of Togo.
A chilling report by UNICEF shows that the country bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the East and Burkina Faso to the North is one of the poorest in the world. Ostensibly, Togolese people live below the poverty line (on less than 2U$/day) even with the country’s enormous natural resources.
The impact of the dictatorial rule has resulted in deterioration of social amenities, increased poverty and inability of the government to provide basic services for its people. While the Gnassingbe family and the political elite in the country enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, the common man wallowed in abject poverty.
There is high illiteracy level in the country because parents can’t afford to send their children to school due to extreme poverty. Many children are forced to work in exploitative and dangerous conditions just to survive.
One in eight children will not reach its fifth birthday, according to a report by UNICEF. The report further added that only 38 percent of the population live in urban areas, making the majority of the population rural. A shocking 82 percent of the rural population live in poverty.
Due to extreme poverty, many children in the country suffer severe hunger and malnutrition; most do not have access to clean water. Many of the children are forced to drop out of school to help support their families. Yet, a particular family has held sway at the top for 50 years without anything good to offer the people. What a curse!
The need to come to the aid of a psychologically impoverished people of Togo and salvage them from the shackles of a greedy political elite whose desire for power has led to the loss of innocent lives is now. There is no better time to act than now!
Apart from human rights violations, the Gnassingbe dynasty has over time emasculated the people of Togo by denying them the good things of life.
Without mincing words, it is absolutely evil for a family to continue ruling a country with severe opposition from the people for 50 years now and the world folds its arms watching the evil fester. The Gnassingbes have been using the instrument of the state to clamp down on the people revolting against the ‘witchcraft’ government of Faure. The Togolese army as a whole is a slap on the face of the people. The soldiers who have over the years left their constitutionally-guaranteed position – to secure the territorial integrity of the country – and instead chose to become errand boys of the Gnassingbe family must be gathered together, castrated and banished from the Togo. For allowing itself become a thing of caricature in the hands of the Gnassingbes, a total purging of the army by way of compulsory retirement of the senior officers must be initiated to eliminate sympathisers who served during the period of this obvious political anomaly. All Gnassingbe’s political allies who participated in government must be given same music to dance, starting with the removal of President Faure Gnassingbe.
The international community – UN, EU, AU, ECOWAS – must as a matter of urgency pour hot pressure on Faure Gnassingbe to resign. It is time to end his family’s stronghold on the country. This is no more time to fold arms; the people of Togo have suffered enough. The injustice and oppression from the government now using the army and police to clamp down on protesters is an aberration that must be checkmated before it is too late.
The killing of innocent people protesting the reign of an illegitimate government must be stopped and those responsible brought to book. Let it not be that the world will watch silently again while impunity and the greed of a few who want to die in power overcome the call of the masses for justice. I call on all men of goodwill to support the masses in Togo as they navigate through this political quagmire to a strong and robust democratic landscape that is participatory and all-encompassing, tailored at bringing dividends of democracy to the people. We must all join hands and end dictatorship in Africa and install a system that respects the right of the people with a responsible army loyally protecting the country instead of individuals.
The will of the people must prevail. The constitution must be followed to the letter and any manipulation must be visited with severe consequences against perpetrators. As the breeze of democratic tenets spread across the continent, those rejected by the masses must never be allowed to impose their wishes on the people by force. The people of Togo have suffered enough. It is time we all join hands and support them to swim out of this murky waters of political enslavement.