Why Togo’s Dictator is Looking to An American Firm To Restore His Image
One of accomplishments of the uprising that began in Togo in 2017 is that it has exposed Faure Gnassingbé in a way which he had not been exposed before. Although this uprising against the government in Togo began in 2017, the effort to pressure Faure out of power in Togo is one that the “Faure Must Go” movement has been spearheading since the movement was founded in 2011. These efforts have helped to expose Faure’s government on an international stage, so much so that Faure is now desperately trying to restore his tainted image.
Throughout the five decades that the Gnassingbé regime has been in power in Togo, it has benefitted greatly from the fact that its Western allies have always helped to cover up its crimes internationally. For example, in 1999 Amnesty International released a report exposing the various atrocities that were being committed by the government of Gnassingbé Eyadéma, Faure’s father who was the dictator of Togo at the time. The report also noted the troubling relationship between France and Togo. Not only did the government of Togo denounce the report, but so too did France. French President Jacques Chirac claimed that the report was the result of “manipulation” and dismissed the report. This is sort of thing that Western governments have typically done with Togo. They offer support, while pretending not to be aware of the abuses being carried out.
Hillary Clinton went so far as to even praise the “democratic gains” that Togo was making. The reality was that even today there still is little democratic freedom and electoral transparency in Togo, but the Western support for Togo’s dictatorship has always been built on maintaining the façade that the government in Togo is democratic and legitimate, when that has never been the case.
This was all before the protests in Togo began in 2017. Since then the government of Togo has been scrambling to restore its image. In 2017 I pointed out that the Israel-Africa summit which was to be held in Togo was cancelled because of the unrest in Togo. Likewise, an ECOWAS meeting which was scheduled to be held in Togo was moved to Nigeria for the same reason. The significance is that in the past meetings would have been held in Togo without any regard or concern for the oppressive conditions in Togo, but it has become very difficult for the outside world to ignore the problems in Togo. The political protests in Togo have not only had a significant political impact on Togo, but there has been an economic impact as well. It was reported last month that the political unrest in Togo has cost the nation $640 million. Togo’s international peace ranking also dropped as well.
Of late Faure has desperately been working to reform his tainted image. Faure has been establishing close ties with Tony Blair, who has a history of publicly supporting African dictatorships. Faure has also sought financial support from the European Union. Most recently, it was uncovered that Faure is paying former Benin ambassador Omar Arouna $1,500 an hour to help restore his image. Arouna works with Global Specialty LLC, which represents African governments.
One of the most important steps in defeating a dictatorship is exposing that dictatorship. The image that a dictatorship presents is extremely important, which is why dictators typically make the effort of creating a cult of personality. This image is so important to Faure that he complained in 2017 about how the protesters were using technology to depict him as a bloody dictator, as if he wasn’t already one. There is still much work to be done before Togo sees real change, but Faure seems to be growing desperate to rehabilitate his tainted image and for the people of Togo this is a sign that the struggle is on the right track.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.