Political agreement aims to end 12-year feud

The Togolese government and opposition parties have agreed to end a 12-year political impasse that had put off foreign donors, hurt the economy and triggered unrest last year that sent tens of thousands of people fleeing across the border.

The government of President Faure Gnassingbe and the opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC) signed the accord on Sunday in the Togolese capital, Lome, after a 10-day meeting in Burkina Faso overseen by President Blaise Compaore.

The agreement calls for the creation of a national unity government that will lead Togo to parliamentary elections next year, the abolition of strict eligibility conditions related to one’s country of residence, revision of electoral rolls and equitable access to public media during campaigns.

In the past, a requirement that candidates display certified proof of having renounced another nationality had prevented many opposition party members who had been living in exile from taking part in elections.

“All participants to the dialogue have acknowledged the necessity to bring to the current electoral framework necessary modifications in order to guarantee a free, democratic and transparent electoral process open to all Togolese,” the agreement said.

It is unclear if the agreements governing conduct of the parliamentary elections will be extended for the next presidential election.

Simmering political tension exploded last year after Faure Gnassingbe won disputed presidential elections that had quickly followed the death of his father, long-time ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema. Opposition supporters took to the streets and clashed with security forces. Some 40,000 people fled across the border, mainly to Benin.

The signatories also agreed to establish an ad-hoc committee that will support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and propose a set of measures to accelerate the return of these refugees.

The Togolese parties also “acknowledge that impunity and political violence are a serious phenomena of the times in Togo, especially during electoral operations.” They agreed to set up a commission to investigate all past politically motivated violence, and stipulated that “the army and security forces will refrain, from now on, to interfere in the political dialogue”.

The agreement also modifies the composition of the National Electoral Commission (CENI), granting 10 seats to opposition parties, five to the ruling Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) and two each to the cabinet and civil society groups.

The government also agreed to reform the country’s security forces, which traditionally have been dominated by northerners and members of the president’s Kabye ethnic group.

Togo’s failure to implement democratic reforms prompted the European Union (EU) to halt financial aid to the country in 1993. Officials pledged in 2004 to undertake 22 reforms to improve the country’s record on human rights and democracy. Over the years, Togo’s economy faltered as foreign assistance dried up.

The implementation of the accord will be monitored by representatives of Togolese political parties, Burkina Faso and representatives of the EU and Economic Community of West Africa African States.

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