April 4, 2003
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs [NDI->http://www.ndi.org] regrets to announce the suspension of its nonpartisan program to assist the development of political parties in Togo. This decision follows repeated, unsuccessful efforts to obtain government authorization to conduct political party capacity building activities. NDI’s proposed program for Togo sought to train leaders and activists from ruling and opposition parties on how to enhance communication skills, encourage internal democratic procedures, strengthen the participation of women and youth party leaders, and strengthen the capacity of election observation delegates as authorized by the Togolese electoral code. Unfortunately, the refusal of authorization to operate in Togo from the government has made it impossible for NDI to accomplish its objectives.
NDI was welcomed in Togo in December 2002 by the government, as well as the ruling and opposition parties, to conduct an assessment of the parties as a prelude to a six-month training program. In its assessment report issued earlier this year, NDI noted: « a legacy of mistrust among political leaders, compounded by the nearly 40 years of President Gnassingbé Eyadema’s uninterrupted political rule, continue to impede the development of pluralist institutions and undermine the country’s ability to realize its economic and political potential. » The personalization of politics in Togo has stifled public discourse, leaving political parties, civic organizations, and public institutions unable, or unwilling, to promote and safeguard democratic principles grounded in freedom of expression and a commitment to fair electoral competition. This has limited opportunities for a peaceful alternation of power through credible elections that allow citizens to freely choose those who govern them, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Since NDI’s return to Lomé, modifications were made to the country’s constitution and electoral code without significant public debate, thereby raising serious doubts about the possibility of a level playing field for all contestants in the upcoming elections. In early January 2003, the Togolese government began imposing conditions on NDI’s activities, such as requiring prior registration as a local association before its work could begin. The government also deemed NDI’s proposed technical training for political party delegates from across the political spectrum « unacceptable », even though such activities are authorized by Article 101 of the electoral code. An official of the government of Togo stated that « the subject matter was too sensitive in the current pre-election environment. »
NDI has therefore concluded that training activities conducted during the pre-election period would potentially expose Togolese participants, as well as the Institute’s own staff and trainers, to harassment and intimidation. Recent arrests of opposition leaders and activists demonstrate the limits to basic freedoms in Togo, particularly during election periods.
Despite this setback, NDI remains committed to assisting Togolese democrats of all political persuasions in building democratic institutions and creating opportunities for dialogue. We salute those many courageous individuals and groups whose tireless efforts to encourage peaceful reform and protect basic liberties remain an inspiration to the growing community of democracy activists in Togo and around the world. NDI intends to continue sharing its views about Togo’s political situation, and would welcome the opportunity to resume activities when circumstances permit.
[NDI’s programs in Togo->http://www.ndi.org] have been funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
For more information, please contact:
Chris Fomunyoh, PhD.
Senior Associate, Africa