As one of dozens of Togolese refugees who took refuge in Hong Kong, I query why the Immigration Department never accepted one of my compatriots despite: a) 50 years of repressive dictatorship in Togo, and b) many of our colleagues having been readily accepted as refugees in European countries. Here is a brief history of the political situation in my country.
For 50 years power has been controlled by the Gnassingbé Clan that took hostage the people of Togo without justice. In fifty years nothing changed, neither in fact, nor in the way was power held at all cost by this father-son dynasty.
It is reported that no election in Togo has met the basic minimum requirements of modern politics: transparency, honesty and fairness in relation to the outcome of the elections. In Togo the elections always end up the same way: they deliver a predictable share of plunder, brutality and funerals of voters who are reduced to political collateral victims.
In this context the government party rallies voters who are hungry and have no choice. They give them 5Kg of rice to buy their vote. They do this every 5 years so effectively each vote is worth 1Kg of rice a year. What a joke. The international community looks the other way and calls Togo ‘democratic’.
The Gnassingbé Clan seized power in 1963 when General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the Father, killed the previous president. He stayed behind the curtains until he started his official rule in 1967. Since 1963 the Father has killed without mercy every activists that he could identify and arrest, including my friends.
Political opposition started in 1991, with the “COD” coalition, after the Father signed a decree to allow a multi-party system with no real power. In 1992 the government and COD arranged the National Conference for Peace to acknowledge and forgive the atrocities of the past. Alas the peace agreement ended up with everyone running home scared, then more fighting and more bloodshed.
During the conference the opposition wanted to dissolve the Father’s political party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), but this proved impossible. That was the end of the conference. A national strike followed and for 13 months nobody went to school or went to work, but they could not break the Gnassingbé Clan’s stranglehold on power.
From 1967 till 1993, the Father Gnassingbé was the only election candidate, like in North Korea. Under International pressure, in 1993 the Father allowed multi-party candidates, but he cheated that election every 5 years until now. The government appoints a group of people (CENI) who supervise the election, but they are the President’s People and falsify paperwork and computer records.
When each election finishes they say that the Father is the winner, or they will disappear and be killed. The Chief Judge, who is appointed by the President, then formally proclaims the winner. And this has been going on since 1993 with deadly persecution of all activists and genuine opposition leaders.
Only Death could end the Father’s absolute power. But when he died in 2005, he was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé, after an operation to exile the president of the Assembly in Benin, as he was constitutionally next in line. This cleared the way for the Son who, with the protection of the army, rapidly took control of Togo.
Again the people protested. In due course the Son made a fake concession and put the assistant of the president of the assembly as President and scheduled fresh elections. But the RPT proposed the Son Gnassingbé as candidate and predictably he won the election. The Son cheated in the elections of 2005 and 2010 and will repeat this year.
According to law he could only be elected twice, but the Son changed the Constitution to say that the President could rule “forever”, so he plans to rule Togo as a lifetime dictator. The Son craves power like the Father and he won’t give up. My people suffer and hundreds of political activists escape abroad, including to Hong Kong where I sought refuge over 10 years ago.
For the good and honourable people in Hong Kong Government who believe in the supremacy of human rights, I have these questions:
- How many political activists will be found dead in the bush, will be swallowed by the lakes and will disappear in the ocean before justice comes to Togo?
- How many activists will flee Togo in exile and come to Hong Kong?
- When will the first Togolese refugee be accepted in Hong Kong?
- You people who fight for justice where are you?
(Name, Immigration number and contact details provided)