Togo Constitution: Opposition Accuses Presidential ‘Power Grab’ in Proposed Changes

The proposed new constitution in Togo, criticized by the opposition as a power consolidation tactic, aims to extend President Faure Gnassingbé’s rule. Transitioning from a presidential to a parliamentary system, the reforms are perceived by opponents as a strategy to prolong Gnassingbé’s presidency, now in its fourth term. Proponents argue that the changes would diminish presidential authority, rendering the position ceremonial and enhancing democracy. However, the opposition contends that the amendments could enable Gnassingbé to retain the presidency until 2031 and subsequently assume the role of “president of the council of ministers,” akin to a prime minister, perpetuating his family’s 57-year dominance. Gnassingbé ascended to power in 2005 following his father’s death, who had ruled since 1967.

Although lawmakers endorsed the constitutional modifications last month, growing public discontent prompted Gnassingbé to halt the reforms, pledging further consultations. Pro-government legislators conducted outreach efforts across the country, engaging customary leaders and selected groups, but no alterations resulted from these discussions. Fear of reprisals hampers public expression, particularly amid police crackdowns on dissent, exemplified by the dispersal of an opposition press conference labeled “Don’t Touch My Constitution.” Opposition figures, including Gerry Taama and Brigitte Kafui Johnson, denounced the amendments as a power grab.

Advocates for the changes argue that they will bolster democracy and political stability, emphasizing the necessity of addressing the people’s aspirations. Despite government bans on protests, activists and opposition leaders called for demonstrations. Gnassingbé’s decision to postpone parliamentary elections exacerbated tensions, ultimately rescheduling them amid ongoing unrest. The opposition remains steadfast, vowing resistance until the reforms are rescinded.

About Geraldine Boechat 2711 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia