Togo - Politics, government, and taxation

Politics have been dominated since 1967 by President Gnassingbé Eyadema, Africa's longest-serving head of state. Despite the introduction of a multi-party system in 1992 and elections in 1994, democracy still seems a long way off. The 1998 elections were boycotted and were deemed flawed by outside observers. A process of national reconciliation was forced on the president by the donor community, and talks with opposition groups resumed with a promise of a re-run of elections in 2000. Most bilateral and multilateral aid remains frozen, and the country has had a poor human rights record.

Togoland was originally a German protectorate from 1884 until the end of World War I. Britain and France split Togoland after the war and ruled under a League of Nations mandate. The western sector was controlled by Britain as part of the Gold Coast, which went on to become Ghana. French Togo became independent in 1960. The first leader, Sylvanus Olympio, was assassinated in 1963, and the army appointed a civilian, Nicolas Grunitzky, to rule. Four years later the army overthrew Grunitzky, and Colonel Eyadema took over control of the government. Eyadema formed the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolese (RPT) party in 1971 and drew civilian technocrats into government. Cabinet reshuffles in the late 1970s were designed to add legitimacy to the military regime.

A constitution based on universal suffrage was introduced in 1979, but the RPT remained the only legal party. After demonstrations and international pressure, Eyadema called a national conference in April 1991. A transitional government was appointed with opposition representation and was led by a lawyer, Joseph Koffigoh. However, the new government came under attack from the president's armed forces. Trade unions and opposition parties launched a general strike in 1992 which lasted for 9 months. A quarter of a million Togolese took shelter in neighboring countries from massacres perpetrated by the armed forces. The presidential election in 1993 was held amid further violence. The opposition boycotted the presidential election, only a third of the electorate voted, and all international observers (with the notable exception of France) rejected Eyadema's victory.

There was a legislative election in 1994. Two opposition parties gained 43 seats out of 81 in the assembly and hence the majority. The pro-Eyadema parties gained 37 seats, with Koffigoh's party winning only 1 seat. The major opposition party, the Union of Forces for Change (UFC), boycotted the election. Eyadema maintained supremacy by convincing the opposition leader, Edem Kodjo, to form an RPT-dominated government. In 1996 Kodjo was thrown out and a technocrat with links to Eyadema took control.

In the lead-up to the 1998 election there were opposition protests, social unrest, and military repression, although not nearly on the same scale as in the early 1990s. After chaos on election day, during which vote-counting stopped, the multi-party election was abandoned and Eyadema was proclaimed the winner. However, this led to violent demonstrations in Lomé. All 5 major opposition party leaders supported the claim of Gilchrist Olympio (son of the former leader and head of the UFC) that he won with 59 percent of votes. International observers condemned the result.

Legislative elections were held again in 1999. There is a National Assembly of 81 seats, with members elected for 5-year terms. The main opposition parties boycotted the election and the RPT gained all but 3 seats. There was much international pressure, including European Union threats to strike Togo off the Lomé Convention (a European Union aid program which compensates certain African and Pacific countries when the prices of their export products fall on world markets). This led to the government and opposition having reconciliation talks, mediated by the European Union and other bodies. A framework agreement was signed in July 1999 to hold a new election by March 2000, with an independent electoral commission. Disagreements have delayed this election, which may not take place until late 2001.

Eyadema remains in power with the support of the army. He has stated that he will not run in the 2004 election, although he has been known in the past to change his mind.

Government revenue comprises around 30 percent of GNP. Of this, about a third comes from taxes on incomes, profits, and capital gains, and a further third from customs duties . Of the rest, about 15 percent comes from indirect taxes on goods and services, and 14 percent is generated by government enterprises (mainly the surpluses from the phosphate sector).

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