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Can Togo break the cycle of authoritarian rule?

Togo, a state in West Africa, has a long history of political turbulence. It has been preparing for legislative and regional elections that were postponed following an argumentative constitutional reform. The Togolese incumbent President, Faure Gnassingbe, indefinitely delayed the polls due to plans to amend the constitution, a move that has led critics of the president to believe that the reform would work in Faure's favor while infringing on the rest of the population.

It was suggested that consultations are required before a new election date could be announced, and this has caused a heated debate in Togo, especially with the involvement of the opposition, who are viewing the move as a ploy to maintain the leadership of Faure, whose family has been ruling since Togo gained independence in 1960. The reforms here would have Togo moving from a presidential to a parliamentary system, marshalling the country's fifth republic. The political behavior of top-ranking leaders failing to accept that the new generation of the millennials, Gen Z and Alphas requires the chance to exercise leadership among the people of the nation has been infamously seen. For instance, the late President Robert Mugabe had declined to step down from power even after leading Zimbabwe for three decades, with the challenges of attempted military coups, before he was replaced by Emerson Mnangagwa.

The Togo elections hold immense potential for the country's democratic trajectory. They can provide platforms for opposing voices, stimulate political discussions by various groups of people, and even add to the pressure for reforms. While there are concerns about the potential for manipulation by the incumbent regime, elections can give voters chances to express their grievances and discontent, thus pushing for greater political transparency and accountability. Consistent engagement in such activities can establish frameworks that can support more democratic ways, even if it could take a lot of time to achieve.

Togo, known for its authoritarian government, stands in stark contrast to its neighboring states in West Africa, like Ghana and Senegal, which have made significant gains in democratic processes. For instance, in Ghana, there have been multiple power transitions via democratic elections since the early 1990s, putting it on a pedestal as a guiding light of democracy in Africa. This stark contrast underscores the need for Togo to embrace democratic principles and promote accountability and transparency.

Correspondingly, Senegal politics have also been marked by revamped matters in egalitarian governance, with power peacefully changing hands between different political parties, for instance, between Diomaye Faye's PASTEF and Macky Sall's The Alliance for the Republic, which is recognized as Alliance pour la Republique. Other features that have enabled Senegal to be committed to democracy are the presence of solid institutions, an active civil society comprising NGOs, CBOs, social movements and faith-based organizations, and respect for the rule of law. If Togo could borrow a leaf from its neighbors, it would undoubtedly make vital strides towards social equality.

Togo’s aristocratic governance could have faced a myriad of hitches because there could be challenges in balancing economic development and democratic freedoms. For instance, most authoritarian governments tend to restrict the liberties of individuals with talents, which encourages brain drain and hampers brain gain in their country. The people with skills are coerced by the circumstances to seek opportunities elsewhere and leave their country.

Moreover, Togo has prioritized its social stability over economic progress, which is depicted as short-term stability over long-term economic growth, which hampers economic progress. In the bargain, Togo's exercise of limitations on civil liberties such as freedom of speech, assembly and the press could create an environment of fear and distrust that could have daunted domestic and foreign investment. Furthermore, the prevalence of corruption and cronyism in Togo has primarily contributed to insufficiency in transparency and accountability, thus undermining the efforts that could be channeled towards economic growth.

Authoritarian governments hinder the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG progress could be impeded by the constraints on democratic freedoms and restricted political pluralism. The SDGs affiliated with democracy and good governance are Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Goal 5: Gender Equality. Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 4: Quality Education. Under Goal 16, Togo faces a hardship in attaining it due to insufficient accountability and openness, which hinders the protection of human rights in Togo. Also, under Goal 5, Togolese women have their voices marginalized, thus encumbering women's empowerment through lack of being predisposed to lucrative opportunities. Gender equality is a subject that is closely tied to democratic governance as it entails women's involvement in decision-making processes.

In addition, under Goal 10, power and resources in Togo are concentrated among the elites of the society, exacerbating democratic inequalities. The promotion of democratic freedoms could aid in alleviating the problem of disparities by empowering citizens to have voices in policymaking. Besides, under Goal 4, providing quality education in Togo can enable people to have critical thinking skills that could help them participate meaningfully in the state's political discourse and know how to hold the government accountable for its actions unwavered by the aristocracy. With the outlining of the Sustainable Development Goals in tandem with Togo's nature, there is a dire need for Togo and other African countries of the exact nature to endorse democratic principles.

Both regional and International Organizations have played vital roles in promoting democratic governance among their member states, Togo being one of them. For instance, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) prompted Togo to have deliberations with the opposition and to have reforms in their voting processes in early 2018, and as a result, Togo should have paid more attention to ECOWAS. Additionally, the African Union was one of the international observers during the Togo elections 2018, together with ECOWAS. However, they failed to lag behind in solving the political crisis in Togo by giving the government leeway to continue with its abuse of power via impunity. ECOWAS asserts its support for democracy, though this case failed drastically. In 2013, the United Nations interceded in Togo legislative elections by launching an inclusive project to strengthen the human rights monitoring system through the UN Human Rights Office – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Togo led by Olatokunbo Ige, whereby the project was inclusive of an accessible and free hotline and an internet tool for aiding eyewitnesses and survivors to report human right violations during elections in real-time.

Togo's upcoming elections are a critical test case for the country's democratic aspirations. The mannerism in which the elections will be conducted could have across-the-board implications for the extended struggle for egalitarianism across the African continent. Togo stands at a crossroads crossroads, with the chance to break the cycle of authoritarianism and pave the way for more democratic prospects. In addition, the aftermath of the Togo elections will shape Togo's political landscape and send a potent message to other African States about the prominence of democratic governance. As the world watches closely, Togo’s voyage towards democracy represents a fundamental moment in Africa’s expedition for inclusive and accountable governance.











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