Togo Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as TGO by Abbreviationfinder, Togo is not to be regarded as a free country. The opposition is held down by the great dominance of the ruling party Unir in society. The electoral system is considered designed to benefit the ruling party. Freedom of the press and opinion is limited. It can be downright dangerous to criticize the regime in public.

There are many opposition parties in Togo but their ability to make themselves heard and gain influence is limited by Unir. The same family has held the presidential post since 1960.

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The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but before the 2018 parliamentary elections, major regime-critical demonstrations were beaten down by police force. Demonstration bans were introduced with reference to the fact that the protests constituted a security risk (see Current policy). According to Amnesty International, eleven people were killed in connection with the demonstrations and many were arrested. However, election observers from Ecowas described the election as essentially free and fair.

In August 2019, the demonstration right was further restricted. Among other things, it was forbidden to demonstrate at the main roads and central places in the cities as well as near government buildings. Protests may only be conducted during the day, between 11am and 6pm. The number of permitted demonstrations in one city was also limited.

According to Freedom House, Togolese can generally express regime criticism in private contexts but run the risk of being accused of other crimes if they express their criticism publicly or talk to journalists.

Since 2016, international organizations must have permission from the state to operate in the country. In 2017, an organization that works for the rights of LGBTQ people was denied employment in the country when their work was considered to be contrary to Togo’s norms and values.

Togo’s largest ethnic group, éwé, is associated with the opposition and is excluded from political influence.

Women and men are formally equal before the law, but in practice women do not have the same opportunities in education and in the labor market. Women are under-represented in political contexts and are also not encouraged to engage politically.

Corruption is widespread. In 2017, the authorities set up a special unit to combat corruption, but most of its officials are linked to the regime. In 2019, Togo ranked 130th among 180 countries in the Transparency International Index of Corruption in the World (see full list here). It was a position worse than the year before.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of the press and opinion are enshrined in the constitution, but are not always respected by the regime. The control of the mass media has traditionally been great, leading to self-censorship among journalists, especially in connection with elections. Violence or threats against journalists are rarely investigated by the police. A special authority has the right to prosecute journalists who it considers violate the press ethical rules, threaten the country’s security or disseminate “false” information.

In recent years, the media situation has improved somewhat. Several charges against journalists have been dropped, while increased revenues have given the media greater leeway. Reporters Without Borders ranked Togo in number 71 in 180 countries in its press freedom index (see full list here). This means an improvement of 15 investments over two years.

Togo has a public policy principle that guarantees citizens the right to public documents, but it is not always complied with.

The regime has occasionally blocked access to the internet in connection with demonstrations.

Judicial system and legal security

The judiciary is structured according to the French model, but there are also elements of traditional rules in the country’s various ethnic groups. The regime has traditionally exercised considerable influence over the legal system.

The conditions in the overcrowded prisons are difficult and the waiting times for the trial are very long. The death penalty was abolished in 2009.



Transitional Government Agreement

During the mediation of Burkina Faso, President Gnassingbé and the opposition decide to form a transitional government until proper and fair parliamentary elections are held.