In Togo, the prime minister, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, resigned suddenly a week ago. Why he resigned still remains a mystery. PM Houngbo was a close collaborator of President Faure Gnassingbé. There is some speculation that he was effectively sacked by President Gnassingbé, even though the president doesn’t formally have this power. However, the reasons are currently unknown.
Anyway, President Gnassingbé has now appointed a new PM. He is Kwessi Séléagodji Ahoomey-Zunu. He was a minister in the previous government. He is a member of the Convergence Patriotique Panafricaine (CPP) party. In other words, he is not a member of President Gnassingbé’s Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT) party.
The details of the government are available here. The key point is that Gilchrist Olympio’s L’Union des forces de changement (UFC) party remains in the government. Olympio was the ‘historic’ opposition figure to the RPT regime. His party joined the government in 2010. They now have eight ministers.
Given the UFC has joined the regime, there are now other opposition movements, notably a group called ‘Sauvons le Togo’. They refused the offer of joining the government. Generally, what appears to be happening is that President Gnassingbé is shoring up his own power by bringing as many forces as possible into the government, so that there is no strong united opposition to him. Expect him to be in power for some time.
On holidays again until later in the week. So, there is just time to confirm that in Togo the opposition UFC has finally joined the government after weeks of speculation. Gilchrist Olympio, the leader of the UFC, has not himself entered the government, but Elliott Ohin has been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is an interview with Mr Ohin in Jeune Afrique.
The new government was officially formed on 28 May. The list of ministers is available here. There are seven opposition ministers in the government according to Afrik.com.
In Togo, there appears to be an agreement on a ‘government of national union’. Recall that in March 2010 Faure Gnassingbé was re-elected president. The opposition contested the result, and continues to do so. However, the Supreme Court has validated the result and international opinion has, in effect, recognised President Gnassingbé’s re-election.
Now, there is a report that the historic leader of the opposition in Togo, Gilchrist Olympio, has agreed to join Gnassingbé’s RPT-led government. Le Togolais is reporting that Mr Olympio as saying that his UFC party will gain 8 seats in the new government.
This would be an historic agreement. After all, Mr Olympio’s father, Sylvanus Olympio, was prime minister when he was killed during the coup in 1963. The current president’s father, later President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, participated in the coup. His role in the killing of Prime Minister Olympio is contested.
The problem with the so-called ‘government of national union’ is that the UFC contests Mr Olympio’s right to lead the party into coalition. The party’s ruling body voted not to enter into government with the RPT and suspended Mr Olympio’s membership of the UFC. For his part, Mr Olympio has challenged the party’s right to exclude him.
There is obviously a back-story. One element of this story is that in 2008 Olympio was nominated as the party’s presidential candidate. However, eventually and in a somewhat unusual context, he stepped down and Jean-Pierre Fabre was the UFC candidate against President Gnassingbé.
The prime minister of Togo, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, who was appointed in September 2008, presented his resignation to newly re-elected President Faure Gnassingbé, who promptly reappointed him and asked him to form a new government.
The official government website is reporting that the prime minister will try to form a government of ‘great openness’ (“large ouverture”), but notes that the aim is not to build a government of “national unity” because, it says, there is no need to do so given that President Gnassingbé was re-elected with just over 60 per cent of the vote.
The problem is that President Gnassingbé’s election continues to be contested by the opposition, particularly by the main opposition candidate, Jean-Pierre Fabre of the UFC, who, according to official figures, won nearly 34 per cent of the vote. However, the international community has, in effect, decided to support President Gnassingbé, who was recently sworn into office for a new term. The report of the EU electoral observation mission is available here. The report of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is available here.
On the official government website, there is an indication that the UFC might be willing to participate in the government. However, no such indication is given on an opposition newspaper site.
In Togo, the presidential election is due to be held on 28 February 2010. Currently, the electoral system for the election is pitting the government against the opposition and some opposition parties are threatening to boycott the election.
The problem is that, as in Gabon and Cameroon, the president is due to be elected in a single ballot, so a simple majority will suffice for victory. This greatly strengthens the position of the incumbent, Faure Gnassingbé because the opposition is spread across a number of candidates, even though it would seem to have the support of more than 50% of the population in total.
In the original version of the 1992 constitution a two-ballot system was specified. However, the constitution was amended in December 2002 under the presidency of General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the father of the current president.
On Sunday, Togosite reports, the ‘historic’ opposition candidate, Gilchrist Olympio, rallied several thousand supporters in the capital, Lomé, to protest against the current electoral system. There have also been counter-protests by supporters of the ruling party.
Jeune Afrique reports that the legislature in Togo has unanimously passed a new electoral code. The key effect of the change is that it allows the main opposition candidate, Gilchrist Olympio, to stand at the 2010 presidential election. Previously, the code had been changed in 2002 precisely to prevent his candidature at the 2003 and 2005 presidential elections.
The change is consistent with the Global Political Agreement that was signed in 2006. M. Olympio is the son of former president, Sylvanus Olympio, who was killed in a coup in 1963. The Global Political Agreement was signed between the incumbent RPT, Olympio’s UFC and the opposition CAR. It has no legal status, but it is still shaping the decision-making process.
The question now is whether the opposition will be able to agree on a single candidate. Art. 60 of the Togolese Constitution states that the president is elected in a single ballot. So, a simple majority is all that is needed. This strengthens the position of the current incumbent, Faure Gnassingbé. One wild card is the return of Kofi Yamgnane, who was previously a junior minister in the French government.
There is background to the code, which had been contested up to this point, at the ever excellent La Constitution en Afrique site.
The president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé, claims to have foiled an attempted coup.
The story is unusual. On the night of 12th/13th April official reports say that there was an exchange of gunfire at the residence of the president’s half-brother, Kpatcha Gnassingbé, who is a deputy and a senior figure in the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais party. The skirmish ended with the arrest of Kpatcha Gnassingbé. There are reports that arms and incriminating documents were found at the residence.
Then, on Thursday 16 April another of the president’s half-brothers, Essolizam Gnassingbé, was arrested. He was named in a list of people who were involved in the plot.
Now, official reports say that nine military personnel including five officers have been arrested.
One, not totally unreasonable report, portrays President Faure Gnassingbé, who was catapulted to power on the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, in 2005, as the reformer, and Kpatcha Gnassingbé as the person who is trying to maintain his father’s corrupt system.
Presidential elections are scheduled for 2010.
The government of Togo has just launched an amazing website (in French) that brings together all laws, decrees and other legal documents since independence. The site includes all the official parliamentary proceedings (journal officiel) going right back to 1960, as well as all constitutional documentation again going right back. To say the least, this is a model for other countries to follow.
On 5 September Komlan Mally resigned as prime minister of Togo. He had been appointed on 3 December 2007.
The new PM is Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, who was previously Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa.
Prime Minister Mally was appointed after the 2007 elections when the ruling Rassemblement du peuple togolais (RPT) party won 50/81 seats in parliament. Recently, the government has been criticised for the economic situation. Prime Minister Houngbo has a reputation as a technocrat from his time at the UN. He also has a qualification in accountancy. He is not a party person, but he is close to President Faure Gnassingbé. Presumably, he will reassure Togo’s international donors.
The next presidential election is due around April 2010.