Togo is one of the smallest countries on the African continent, but it may currently be one of the loudest. The elected president Faure Gnassingbé has been in power since his father’s death in 2005, and together they have ruled the country for over fifty years. The regime has been characterized by the military coup that initially gave them power and the subsequent elections, each with disputed results and deadly protests. Now, thousands of Togolese people have taken to the streets across the country in protest. I interviewed Farida Nabourema, one of the activists at the forefront of the opposition movement and a brave voice for the Togolese people.
What inspired you to become a political activist?
I got involved at a very tender age following my father who himself was an activist by attending rallies and political meetings. My engagement was enforced in 2005 in the aftermath of the post-electoral crisis during which more than 500 people were killed by the military regime in order to secure the presidential seat for the son of the deceased president Eyadema Gnassingbe who ruled Togo for 38 years.
What are some of the injustices that exist in Togo and other African countries that make it difficult for people to live comfortably and peacefully?
Fundamental Human Rights are not even close to being achieved in Togo. People are arrested, tortured and killed for speaking their minds, protesting against the government, journalists are persecuted, media are shutdown. I always say that the only freedom we have in Togo is that of death. When it comes to civic rights, none of it exist in Togo. On top that, the mismanagement of our resources by a nepotistic 5 decades old regime drove our economy in the abyss and over half of our people live in poverty and severe deprivation.
If you could change one thing about your home country what would it be?
The way citizens perceive our government. We have a serious citizenry problem and although it is slowly changing, a lot still needs to be done. Right now, were able to mobilize people to stand for their rights and they are protesting because they have no other option than to stand up. But truthfully, our people still need to empowered for them to understand that them citizens have the power to prevent their oppression. If only us citizens, we understand we have the ability to control how we are governed, I believe we can move mountains and build the Togo we want.
Tensions have continued to rise in Togo as Gnassingbé’s government reacts to the protests with more violence. Despite mass arrests, injuries, and even the death of multiple Togolese citizens, protestors have responded with more determination and vigor. Gnassingbé has attempted to weaken protestors with tactics such as shutting down the internet and obstructing movement, without success.
When asked why she doesn’t join the government to bring change from the inside, Nabourema said “I am working on going to hell so I can change Satan from the inside. I am very ambitious when it comes to changing evil people. Better start with their boss.” It is obvious that the opposition movement has an unstoppable momentum, and with strong leaders such as Farida Nabourema the outlook for Gnassingbé’s dictatorship is not great.