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(April 7th, 2024)

LOME’. Institutional mess in Togo: on March 25th, at night, the National Assembly secretly approves a new Constitution with 89 yes, one no and one abstention, then faced with protests from both the political opposition and civil society, the President of the Republic Faure Gnasingbé asks the deputies to re-examine the text and possibly carry out a new vote, finally postponing the already scheduled legislative and regional elections, called for 20th April, to a date to be set, because, says the Minister for Public Function Gilbert Bawara, as government spokesman, “further consultations before the vote are needed to ensure transparency on the reforms.”



The approved text provides for the transformation of the state into a parliamentary republic, while today it’s under a presidential regime.

The President of the Republic, elected by the National Congress, will remain in office for six years and can’t be confirmed: his role is purely ceremonial.

The National Assembly, the lower house, will choose from among its members the President of the Council of Ministers who will remain in office for the entire six-year legislature: after the subsequent elections he can be re-elected.

He will have the power to appoint and dismiss ministers, conducts the foreign policy, head the armed forces…

In addition to the lower house, elected by universal suffrage for six years, there’ll be a senate made up of representatives of local authorities.



On March 27th, the opposition, although divided, took to the field to contest both the text adopted and the methods of approval: on 4th April four, parties and a civil society organisation invited the Togolese to three days of protest from 11th to 13th of this month.

However, demonstrations in Togo have been banned since 2022 following the killing of a policeman during a popular protest in the capital’s central market.

Many believe that Faure Gnasingbé, who took his father’s place at the top of the country in 2005, carried out a kind of “constitutional coup” to keep himself in power forever.

The promoters of the mobilisation of the next few days write it clearly:

“We vigorously condemn the regime’s maneuver, which is attempting by all means to implement a constitutional coup,” it reads in their statement.

The Togolese bishops conference has also taken a position on the topic: having questioned both the “opportunity” of implementing this reform and the timing chosen, the priests invite the Head of State to “initiate an inclusive political dialogue”.



The proposal for a new constitution created by 19 MPs of the majority Union pour la République (UNIR) party is contested for at least two reasons:

1. the parliament that approved it expired on January 7th and by law it should have limited itself to managing current affairs;

2. the art. 59 of the current constitution establishes that the methods of election of the President of the Republic can only be modified by a popular referendum.

Institutional coup d’état, then?

“We have known since mid-March – Isabelle Ameganvi, vice-president of the opposition National Alliance for Change, tells – that a fundamental bill was in preparation, but we were far from imagining that we would change the constitution so quickly, of night, while everyone is sleeping.”

“This is a constitutional scam,” historian Michel Goeh-Akue told AFP. “The adoption of a new fundamental law requires a popular referendum.”



The repressive apparatus, in the face of protests, didn’t remain inactive:

already on March 27th the police had interrupted a press conference of the opponents who intended to illustrate their point of view on the announced “reforms” to the press.

On April 3rd, nine people were arrested while distributing leaflets in Lomé’s main market and police reportedly raided a private house where a meeting of Gnasingbé opponents was being held.



“Since 1967 – writes Elise Barthet[1] – Togo has had only two presidents: Gnassingbé Eyadéma, a former soldier of the French army who became head of state following a coup, in office until his death in 2005, then his son, Faure, comfortably always re-elected.”

At 57, “the young dean”, as his West African peers call him, appears to be one of the most solidly in power, while the Sahel is hit by several crises that have produced a series of putsch.

Despite the sanctions decreed by ECOWAS-CEDEAO, Lomé has tried in recent years to keep relations alive with the countries marginalised.



The states born from the ashes of colonial empires in Africa have mainly chosen presidentialism, apart from a handful of more or less constitutional monarchies.

Soon, however, the armed forces assumed an important role on the political scene with frequent insurrections and real coups d’état, some bloodless, but others ending in blood: in 1963, in Togo, the first President of the Republic Sylvanus Olympio was killed while trying to reach the US embassy; three years later the Ghanaian Kwame N’Krumah is overthrown while in Romania.

Elsewhere, the “monarchic” model prevails, with long presidencies and single dominant parties: this can happen because the elites band together and all the subjects that make them up benefit from being close to power.

In Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, Félix Ouphouet-Boigny reigned from 1960 to 1993 and only after his death did chaos break out; in Zambia, Kenneth D. Kaunda led the country from 1964 to 1991 and the same thing happens in many other states.

The motivation of all these strong leaders is that only they can prevent such young nations from falling apart when tensions emerge between different parts of society.

Democracy is seen as divisive and in any case a luxury for those who face hunger and poverty.

However, it soon becomes clear that alongside millions of poor and dispossessed there is an arrogant, violent, kleptocratic and corrupt oligarchy.



The only country to have established a truly parliamentary system is the island of Mauritius (Indian Ocean).

Here the political engine is the parliament from which arises, according to the Westminster model, a prime minister who appoints his cabinet.

The President of the Republic is elected by the legislature on the proposal of the head of the Government.

Every five years or so, elections are held on the island with the participation of different parties.




The Republic of Togo is a long and narrow strip of land between Ghana (west) and Benin (east): it also borders Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) to the north.

It occupies an area of 56,785 square km and is populated by 8.4 million people.

The capital is Lomé.

Bathed by the Gulf of Guinea, it’s a former German and after French colony until April 27th, 1960 when it achieved independence.



The country has three distinct natural regions:

a low coastline with lagoons; a densely populated coastal plain; a more desert area in the north.

The Togo mountain range slopes from northeast to southwest.



The people is divided into different ethnic groups:

The largest are the Ewe-Adja (43%), followed by the Tem-Kabye (27%) and the Gurma (16%).

The descendants of the freed slaves who returned from Brazil, called “brasileiros”, constitute a very influential “caste” on a political and economic level. A small European minority is concentrated in the capital.

The most practiced religions are: traditional African cults (50%), Christianity (35%) and Islam (15%).

In addition to French (official), inherited from the colonial era, Ewe, Kabye, Twi and Hausa are also spoken.



Togo is a moderate producer and exporter of phosphates and oil, while cocoa, coffee and palm oil come from agriculture.

Tourism has gained importance in recent years.



Lomé, like all the states bordering the Gulf of Guinea, is affected by Islamic Jihad which, starting from the Sahel, attempts to reach the coast. This pushes governments to keep their guard up especially for fear of attacks from Islamist movements that range across the various territories, counting on the limited control that executives exercise on the borders between one country and another.




[1] E. Barthet, Au Togo, une nouvelle Constitution taillée sur mesure pour Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé,, March 28, 2024.

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