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December 18 2013

Made in Togo: A 3D Printer Built from Recycled E-Waste

Afaté GNIKOU is an IT engineer in Togo who wanted to tackle two important goals:

  1. create the first 3D printer from Togo, 
  2. reduce the alarming number of E-waste dumped into his country. 

Here is a presentation of the 3D printer project, called W.AFATE :

The W.Afate 3D Printer made in Togo via

The W.Afate 3D Printer made in Togo via

A. Gnikou is a member of the Woe lab, a maker collaborative space based in Lomé, capital city of Togo. Sénamé Koffi Agbodjinou, founder of Woe Lab, explains Afate's thought process for the project [fr]:

L’imprimante W.AFATE est inspirée de la Prusa Mendel [..] Afate ayant cerné le problème que posait la disponibilité d’un kit dans la concrétisation de ce projet, a initié la démarche de fabrication d’une machine autonomisante, facile à reproduire, 100% à base de recyclage et autres matériaux disponibles.

The W.AFATE printer is inspired by the Prusa Mendel [..] Afate identified a clear problem : the absence of a basic toolkit to achieve his project so he opted to create a machine that is 100% based on recycled materials and easy to replicate.

E-Waste is growing issue in Togo and the nearby countries. The following infography illustrates the increased proportion of E-Waste in the region :

E waste in africa -infography by Woe Lab with their permission

E waste in africa – Infography by Woe Lab with their permission

Reposted bylofi lofi

November 19 2013

Massive Railway Project between Niamey and Cotonou Underway

A 1,500 km-long railway project between Niamey, the capital city of Niger and Cotonou, the capital city of Benin has been green lighted by the authorities of the two countries and construction will begin on March 2014 [fr].  Francois Ndiaye in Niamey unpacks the set up of the financial agreement [fr] that includes multiple stakeholders and will be overseen by the investment group Bolloré [fr]. Benoît ILLASSA in Cotonou wonders why private investing groups from either Niger or Cotonou were not selected to pilot such projects. The projected budget  is set at 100 billions CFA (about 2 billions USD).  The railway should extend in the future to three other capital cities of the west african region : Abidjan, Ouagadougou and Lomé.  

October 07 2013

Oktoberfest in Lomé, Togo

Beer Fest in Togo in Lomé, Togo via Togo actualités

Beer Fest in Togo in Lomé, Togo via Togo actualités

The month of October is most often associated with Beer fest in Germany. Yet it seems that it is also slowly becoming a tradition in Togo. LoveJoyce Amavi, a blogger in Lomé, The capital city of Togo, denounces the absurdity of such a fest in his city. He writes in “L‘âge de la bière” (the age of beer) [fr]:

Si en Allemagne, pays inventeur, ou tout au moins, grand producteur de bière, la fête de la bière (die Oktoberfest), est cette rencontre coutumière, conviviale, cordiale, chez nous, l’excès suprême d’alcool, et les débordements nuisibles, sont le lot de chaque année [..] D’imaginer près de 100.000 jeunes, à la fête de la bière, et à peine 300, au forum de l’emploi des jeunes, est une blessure profonde.

In Germany, a major producer of fine hops, Oktoberfest is a traditional gathering where people have good, harmless fun. But here every year, the open access to alcohol is an opportunity for drunken obnoxious behaviors [..] To see 100,000 youngsters come to Beer Festival and then merely 300 show up at job fairs saddens me a great deal.

July 25 2013

Sifting Fact From Fiction on the French Speaking Web

A recent row between a veiled woman‘s husband and the police in Trappes, a low-income suburb of Paris, was followed by numerous erroneous posts and images [fr] posted on social media websites. The blog Les Décodeurs, which strives to sift out truth from lies on the Francophone web, was quick to counter the false information.

Fabrice Florin, the French-speaking founder of NewsTrust and TruthSquad, explains the need for fact-checking initiatives:

There is a growing amount of misinformation, particularly in this political climate [..] With an expanding universe of news options, once someone finds a source of information they like or agree with, they tend to cling to it. The reason [for fact check] is to get people thinking about what they read and hear, and from there, questioning it.

Here is a review of recent events that were reviewed extensively by fact checkers in French-speaking online media.

Row in Trappes

On July 19, 2013 in Trappes, the husband of a Caribbean woman who was wearing a niqab (face veil), allegedly tried to strangle [fr] a police officer. Following the husband's arrest, 200 people protested in front of a police station destroying property, and were eventually repelled by riot police. Images posted on social media were erroneously tagged as originating from the violence during the protests. Les Décodeurs unpacked numerous errors [fr]:

Quelques personnes, en général connues pour leur activité militante, diffusent sciemment de fausses informations. C'est le cas de cette photo, diffusée par Stéphane Journot, ancien militant UMP, actif durant la campagne de 2012

Some people, known for their political activism, knowingly share false information. As is the case with this photo, shared by Stéphane Journot, a former UMP (right wing party) activist from the 2012 campaign.

Below is the erroneous tweet and photo [fr]:

you might call this racism but..look for yourself #Trappes

The photo was in fact an old image taken in 2010 in Lyon. Les Décodeurs adds that there were many similar tweets spreading, knowingly or not, the wrong information.

Fact checking on the African continent 

African nations are well aware of the importance of fact-checking initiatives. Ushahidi, the world's first crowd-mapping platform  originated from the African continent. A project called Africa Check specifically monitors information from African leaders. Their mission statement says:

We test claims made by public figures around the continent, starting in South Africa, using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting out fact from fiction.

In Francophone Africa, the focus has been mostly on election monitoring. Election monitoring initiatives, in SenegalBurundi, are well-established.  Elections are coming up in a few Francophone nations,including Mali, Togo and Madagascar. Pen Plus Bytes has dedicated a specific platform for election monitoring in Africa called the African Elections Project (AEP). The project wrote the following report on the ongoing Togolese parliamentary elections:

About 3.3 million registered Togolese voters will cast ballots today in 7,600 polling stations to select 91 Parliamentarians out of about 1,174 contesting candidates from the ruling and opposition parties. This election has been delayed for eight months amid concerns by opposition parties that the poll won’t be transparent and fair.

Sylvio Combey in Togo has already posted images of alleged fraud from his Twitter account:


8:00, A ballot box is shown to be empty in #Kanyikopé (Togo) #TGinfo #TG2013 #Nukpola #Fb

In Mali, Rising Voices (a Global Voices project) grantee Fasokan has been involved with the monitoring the upcoming Presidential elections. He wrote about the training of electoral observers [fr] :

Pendant cinq jours, plusieurs thèmes ont été abordés : la loi électorale, la charte des partis politiques, les genres journalistiques (compte rendu, portrait, interview…), les règles de déontologie et éthique du journaliste, les contraintes liées à l’exercice de la profession

For five days, several topics were discussed: the electoral law, the charter for political parties, the different journalistic activities (report, biography, interviews …), the rules of conduct and ethics of a journalist, the constraints while conducting journalistic activities

Training  for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Training for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Madagascar also awaits elections and concerns are already arising with false information posted on the web. During recent protests asking for a firm electoral calendar, a photo claiming that protesters were out in force was fact checked by Global Voices contributor Jentilisa.

Jentilisa wrote [mg]:

Fa maninona ho'aho ity sarin'ny tolon'ny 2009 na fony mbola tsy vita ny lapan'ny tanàna hita amin'ny “grue” manakaiky ny hazo avo ireo no miverimberina hanetanana ny tolonareo e? Sahala amin'ny hoe io no tao androany nefa tamin'ny 2009 ity sary ity?

Why is a photo from 2009 resurfacing again (and tagged as photo from recent events)? One can see with the crane in the background that it is clearly not a recent photo. This crane was there in 2009, wasn't it ?

The photo Jentilisa disputes is below:

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa - Public Domain

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa – Public Domain

With the worldwide growth of the web, it is critical that fact checking project becomes more mainstream and better known as well.

Alleged Fraud during Parliamentary Elections in Togo

Parliamentary Elections are underway in Togo today (25/07/2013). The Save Togo Association has already reported instances of alleged fraud [fr]. Togolese activist Sylvio Combey posted an image from one of the polling station on twitter:


8:00, A ballot box is shown to be empty in #Kanyikopé (Togo) #TGinfo #TG2013 #Nukpola #Fb

April 03 2013

Togo: Journalists’ Sit-in Broken up with Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets

On March 14, 2013, security forces violently broke up a sit-in by private sector journalists in Togo. The journalists were protesting [fr] the new provisions of the Organic Law which mean the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) can now withdraw business licences of the Togolese media without judicial proceedings. The protests, organised by seven professional associations, took place in Lomé, largest city and capital of Togo. Security forces used clubs, tear gas bombs and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. Some journalists were injured, notably Younglove Egbéboua Amavi, general secretary of Togolese press association SAINTJOP (Union of Information Agents and Journalists of the Public Outlets).

Younglove Agbéboua Amavi, General Secretary of SAINTJOP after being injured by security forces. Photo via -  Public Domain

Younglove Agbéboua Amavi, General Secretary of SAINTJOP after being injured by security forces. Photo via – Public Domain

News website published an article covering the facts:

 Le journaliste Younglove Egbéboua Amavi, secrétaire général du Syndicat des agents de l’information, techniciens et journalistes des organes publics (SAINTJOP), a été gravement blessé au visage par une balle en caoutchouc lors d’un sit-in des journalistes, jeudi à Lomé, a constaté APA sur place. Il a été admis en urgence au centre hospitalier universitaire de Lomé Tokoin où selon les médecins, le journaliste souffre d’une fracture de la mandibule avec une lésion des dents.. La manifestation a été violemment réprimée par des forces de l’ordre qui ont fait usage de gaz lacrymogènes et de matraques pour disperser les journalistes.

Journalist Younglove Egbéboua Amavi, general secretary of the Union of Information Agents and Journalists of the Public Outlets (SAINTJOP), was seriously injured in the face by a rubber bullet during a sit-in by journalists on Thursday in Lomé, reported APA from the scene. He was urgently admitted to the Lomé University Hospital Centre in Tokoin where doctors declared that the journalist had suffered a fractured jaw with a lesion from teeth.. The demonstration was violently repressed by the forces of order who made use of tear gas and clubs to disperse the journalists.

Professional news organisations had instigated a gradual programme of demonstrations before resorting to a sit-in. Reporters without borders presented the planned schedule on their website [fr]:

Le mardi 12 mars 2013, à l’appel de huit organisations de professionnels des médias, les médias audiovisuels, la presse écrite et la presse en ligne observeront une “journée sans presse”. Le lendemain, une manifestation rassemblera les opposants à cette loi, qui, pour l’occasion, porteront du rouge. Enfin, le jeudi 14 mars, un sit-in sera organisé devant le Palais de la Présidence de la République.

Le 18 février dernier, Reporters sans frontières s’est adressée au Premier ministre togolais, monsieur Ahoomey-Zunu, pour demander le retrait du projet de loi.

On Tuesday March 12, 2013, following appeals from eight professional media organisations, the audiovisual media, written and online press will observe a “press-free day.” The following day, a demonstration will gather together opponents of this law, who will wear red for the occasion. Finally, on Thursday March 14, a sit-in will be organised in front of the Palace of the President of the Republic.On February 18, Reporters Without Borders had addressed the Togolese Prime Minister, Mr Ahoomey-Zunu, to demand retraction of the law.

Although the case of Younglove Egbéboua Amavi was the most serious, other journalists were also subjected to rough treatment. The website of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, told that [fr]:

Yolande Lovi, reporter du groupe privé RTDS, est tombée en syncope sous l'effet des grenades lacrymogènes tirés par des policiers, selon un communiqué rendu public par les groupes de défense de la liberté de la presse. Le communiqué indique que d'autres journalistes qui ont tenté d'aider M. Lovi ont également été agressés.

Yolande Lovi, a reporter from the private group RTDS, blacked out under the effect of tear gas hand grenades thrown by the police, according to a press release by groups defending press freedom. The document indicated that other journalists who tried to help Mr Lovi had also been attacked.

The following video shows the security forces trying to disperse demonstrators [fr]:

Yark Damehane, Togolese Minister of Security gave his version of events in a press release published by news blog,[fr]:

Toutes les injonctions régulièrement faites par les forces de l’ordre sont restées vaines. C’est alors qu’ayant procédé aux sommations, le commandant de la troupe a décidé de faire usage de la force pour évacuer les lieux

Une grenade lacrymogène a malheureusement atteint au visage M. Younglove Egbéboua Amavi qui a aussitôt été évacué au pavillon militaire du CHU Sylvanus Olympio. Ces jours ne sont toutefois pas en danger. On déplore de part et d’autres des blessés au moment de la dispersion des manifestants par les forces de sécurité.

All the injunctions regularly made by the forces of order remain in vain. That’s how, having proceeded with the warnings, the troop commander decided to make use of force to evacuate the area.Unfortunately, a tear gas grenade hit the face of Mr Younglove Egbéboua Amavi who was immediately taken to the military pavilion of the CHU Sylvanus Olympio (hospital). These days are not, however, in danger. We deplore the injuries on both sides which occurred during the dispersal of demonstrators by the security forces.

This version of the facts was vigorously contested by numerous sources. On website, Nima Zara wrote [fr]:

Tollé général dans la famille des journalistes. Où le Colonel Yark a-t-il vu des gens emmener le confrère Amavi au pavillon militaire ? A-t-il imaginé ou l’a-t-on trompé ? Le mensonge est si gros qu’il fait pousser un gros cri de consternation, de stupéfaction et de révolte. Tous les témoins, manifestants et curieux qui avaient assisté à la course-poursuite, savent que ce sont les confrères Francis Galley, Junior Amenunya et Ferdinand Ayité qui se sont pliés à quatre pour conduire M. Amavi dans un centre privé puis au CHU Sylvanus Olympio.

Public outcry in the family of journalists. Where had Colonel Yark seen people bring our colleague Amavi to the military pavilion? Did he imagine it, or was he fooled? The lie is so gross that you want to howl with dismay and outrage. All the witnesses, demonstrators and bystanders who saw the chase, know that it was our colleagues Francis Galley, Junior Amenunya and Ferdinand Ayité who were bending over backwards to drive Mr Amavi to a private centre then to the CHU Sylvanus Olympio.

Alluding to the repressive methods that the previous President Gnassingbé Eyadèma applied and that his son Faure Gnassingbé, who inherited the presidency, continues to use, she added [fr]:

De Gnassingbé Eyadèma à Faure Gnassingbé, les méthodes ne changent pas. Le mensonge grotesque et impudique continue d’être servi aux populations dans des situations où même les individus les plus fêlés vont reconnaître le flou, le faux et l’intox. Même dans l’erreur, on refuse de reconnaître la faute et de faire profil bas. On doit avoir toujours raison comme si de Gnassingbé Eyadèma à Faure Gnassingbé, ce sont des irréprochables et des dieux humanisés qui gouvernaient le pays. Le mensonge flagrant du jeudi dernier est la dernière preuve en date, s’il faut se garder de parler des enquêtes sur les incendies des marchés. Machiavel, Néron, Hérode et Pilate tous ensemble !

From Gnassingbé Eyadèma to Faure Gnassingbé, methods have not changed. The grotesque and shameless lie continues to be served to populations in certain situations where even the craziest individuals must recognise the vagueness, the fakery and the propaganda. People mistakenly refuse to recognise these faults and to keep a low profile. We must always be right, as if Gnassingbé Eyadèma and Faure Gnassingbé were immaculate, human gods governing the country. Last Thursday’s blatant lie is the latest proof to date, we should be careful of speaking about the investigations into the flare-ups during the [demonstrators'] marches. Machiavelli, Nero, Herod et Pilate all together!

Togolese news blog reported the words of Mohamed Keita, African Coordinator for the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, giving precise details on the modifications on the law covering the press [fr]:

 Conformément aux nouveaux amendements, la HAAC peut maintenant retirer les licences d’exploitation des médias togolais sans procédure judiciaire, ont rapporté des médias. La HAAC est composée de neuf membres, dont quatre sont nommés directement par le président de la République et les cinq autres par le Parlement qui est contrôlé par la majorité présidentielle, ont déclaré au CPJ des journalistes locaux.

Conforming to the new amendments, the HAAC can now withdraw business licences of the Togolese media without judicial proceedings, reported the media. The HAAC consists of nine members, four of which are named directly by the president while the remaining five are chosen by the parliament, which is controlled by a presidential majority, local journalists told the CPJ.

However, only a few days after these serious events, Oliver A revealed, in an article posted on, that the Constitutional Court had given an unfavourable response concerning certain modifications of the law [fr]:

 …. Les articles 58, 60, cinquième et sixième tirets, 62, dernier tiret,63, troisième et quatrième tirets, 64 et 67 de la loi organique adoptée le 19 février 2013, portant modification de la loi organique n° 2009-029 du 22 décembre 2009 relative à la Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication, ne sont pas conformes à la Constitution.

…. Articles 58, 60, fifth and sixth indents, 62, last indent, 63, third and fourth indents, 64 and 67 of the Organic Law adopted on February 19, 2013, including modification of the Organic Law number 2009-029 of December 22, 2009 relative to the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication, do not conform to the constitution.

The website of highlighted that the National Council of Press Patrons (CONAPP) and the Union of Independent Togolese Journalists (UJIT), neither of whom were among the professional organisations behind the demonstration [fr]:

 Par une démarche menée envers la  Fédération internationale des Journalistes (FIJ), l’UJIT indique pour sa part, avoir à travers une requête sollicité une « assistance financière directe au confrère en difficulté ». « La procédure suit son cours  normal et la FIJ en mesure la réelle portée au regard des échanges entre l’UJIT et cette structure internationale dont elle est l’affiliée au  Togo », stipule le communiqué.

The UJIT indicates that it has requested “direct financial assistance for a colleague in need” via the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The press release stipulates that “the procedure is following its course and that the IFJ is aware of the significance of the issue if judged by the exchanges between the UJIT and Togolese brach of the IJF”.

According to Ferdinand Ayité, president of ‘SOS Journaliste en danger’, cited by Olivier A in an article on, Younglove Agbéboua Amavi’s state of health is worse than it seemed and his medical expenses are unlikely to be under 650,000 CFA (Central African Francs). This association has many initiatives and is calling out to all those who care about press freedom in this country to come to the aid of Mr Amavi so he is able to pay his medical fees.

January 17 2013

2012: A Year of Revolt and Social Change in Francophone Countries: Part 2

[All links in French unless stated otherwise.]

We continue with the second part of our 2012 review of the Francophone world.  The first half of the 2012 review (which can be found here [en]) focused on the armed rebellions and society projects linked to the economic crisis.  Part two will review the civil rebellion and governance problems experienced in Togo, Chad and Madagascar, the citizen initiatives in Senegal, the fight for more transparency in public affairs in Cameroon and the ongoing debates on society in France.

Protests in Togo, Chad and Madagascar

Togo is currently in full political transition following the highly controversial presidential elections of 2005 which resulted in the son of the ex-President Gnassingbé Eyadema, Faure Gnassingbé Eyadema [en], taking power. The group ‘Let’s Save Togo’ (Collectif ‘Sauvons le Togo’ (CST)) counts several human rights defence groups and political parties among its supporters. Its main condemnation (amongst others) is the exploitation of certain institutions and the subsequent confiscation of riches from these institutions by the rich minority whilst the local population is plunged into mounting poverty.  The demonstrations against the ruling power have been the setting for many violent clashes with the police during the year, as shown in the following photos and videos:

Repression at the demonstrations on 13 June 2012, by the group Let's Save Togo on Flickr with permission

This video shows police officers severely injuring a demonstrator [Warning: These images may shock certain audiences]:

In Chad, a coalition of organisations for the protection of human rights has expressed similar demands over the need to protect people’s right to the freedom of expression and to implement reforms for more social justice.

In Madagascar, the non-payment of salaries and bursaries to teachers and students has caused violent protests in May and in November. The protests against the current crisis are not limited to students and teachers: cattle farmers and even banks have been protesting against the chronic insecurity of the country.

étudiants en grève à Madagascar par jentilisa avec autorisation

“Sort out this problem because we are suffering”  students on strike in Madagascar by Jentilisa (used with permission)


Post-election pride for Senegal but tough times ahead for Cameroon


The pre-electoral period was a particularly turbulent time in Senegal.  The decision to endorse A.Wade’s candidacy for a third term by the Constitutional Counsel triggered a wave of violence and organisation of protests by the Senegalese opposition. The vote finally supports the opposition’s case that backed Macky Sall to victory on the 25th March. A new citizen initiative has allowed observers to verify the results of the elections in real time and to avoid any questioning of the validity of the verdict from the ballot boxes. Here is a video of the headquarters of Sunu 2012 during the night of the second round of the presidential election:

Cameroon: (by Julie Owono)

As well as being a country that is particularly hostile towards homosexuals, Cameroon has surpassed this by making front page news in 2012 during the Olympic Games in London when seven athletes withdrew from the national team.  They decided to stay in Britain instead of returning to their country. Philippe Menkoué from Global Voices has tried to make sense of their choice and suggests that the work and life conditions of professional athletes in Cameroon have strongly contributed to this decision:

Ces fugues viennent tout simplement mettre en évidence le malaise qui anime la jeunesse camerounaise toute entière. Ainsi, d’après le blogueur camerounais Florian Nguimbis, ces athlètes ne sont pas à blâmer, mais plutôt le système tout entier.

The story of these fugitives simply shows the misery that is facing young people in Cameroon. According to the Cameroonian blogger Florian Nguimbis, these athletes are not to blame – rather it is the fault of the whole system itself.

The 2011 elections that saw P.Biya reelected with more than 75% of the vote seems to have made Cameroonians sceptical over the possibility of any deep reforms to the current system.

France: Change of power or Power to change? (by Suzanne Lehn

Campaign posters by JC Benoist on Wikimedia CC License -3.0-BY

The most memorable event of 2012 would have been the presidential election in which the socialist François Hollande won in the second round against the departing president Nicolas Sarkozy, followed and confirmed by legislative elections. The electoral process was scrutinised abroad and people again started trying to guess the winner before the official announcement of the results.

But problems linked to the economic crisis are starting to show: the stigmatisation of foreigners- common across the whole of Europe, to which the new government is trying to combat with new measures to favour Romany peoples’ access to jobs and to soften French immigration policy. A jarring note or a symptom of something deeper, Black Fashion Week in Paris was affected by visa problems. The following questions of society were also present during the debates and actions of internet users: male chauvinism in daily life, violence against women condemned in an international newspaper, debates against the abolition or regulation of prostitution and drunk driving.
An election promise which should become law soon but not without difficulty is for universal marriage – or marriage for all, which has provoked protests and counter-protests and has revived homophobic rhetoric. The defense of regional and local languages, through the ratification of the European Charter for Regional Languages, was scrapped on the 31 March.
France also saw two potentially fruitful developments at the international level: the first, a joint initiative between France and the World Bank to put an end to the “outrageous exploitation of African reserves”, and the second, a meeting in Strasbourg in October 2012 organised by the European Council to mark the first World Forum for Democracy.
At the end of February, the European Parliament in session in Strasbourg postponed the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. This was postponed following constant mobilisation of criticism against the strong bias in favour of authors’ rights in regards to Internet content.

We finish this round-up of 2012 with a little success story of a French film’s exceptional 5 Oscar wins “The Artist” – although not a typically sounding French film, it is homage to the silent movie era of which France was a pioneer.

Anna Gueye, Julie Owono, Abdoulaye Bah, Suzanne Lehn and Philippe Menkoue all contributed to this post.

January 15 2013

Togo: An Open Letter to Denounce Violence Against Journalists

On January 14, 2013, Maxime Domegni, Secretary General of the National Union of Independent Journalist of Togo (SYNJIT) and Sylvio Combey Combetey, President of the Network of African Journalists on Human Security and Peace (RAJOSEP) published [fr] a press release to denounce violence against journalists in Togo. The release details a skirmish that occurred on January 10, 2013, after a demonstration by the opposition was repressed [fr]:

RAJOSEP and SYNJIT witnessed the assault of several journalists during the repression of the demonstration of the Collective Save the Togo (CST), on Thursday January 10, 2013.

November 12 2012

Coalition of African Nations Agrees to Send 3,300 Soldiers a year to Northern Mali

Seven African nations of ECOWAS namely Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo have agreed with Malian government [fr] to send 3,300 soldiers a year to Northern Mali to take back control of northern Mali from Islamist fighters. Other nations outside the ECOWAS might also send in troops.

October 09 2012

France, World Bank to Help African Nations Negotiate Mining Contracts

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Franc Zone monetary cooperation agreements, the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and the French Minister of Finance, Pierre Moscovici, have published a joint text advocating the establishment of an initiative to end “the excessive exploitation of Africa’s reserves” [fr].

Following this address, a press release from the World Bank stated that they have created a fund to help African countries better negotiate the exploitation of their natural resources. This measure seems to formally highlight not only failures of African governments to profit from their resources but also the disproportionate benefits obtained by international operators.

An urgent need for fairer deals 

That this measure aims to ‘promote fair and equitable trade contracts' is the main information to take from this joint address. But the press release also makes reference to an often controversial past between France and its former colonies.

Mr Ouattara stated that [fr]:

Nous entendons lutter contre le décalage qui demeure, trop souvent, entre une vision datée et pessimiste de l’Afrique et le dynamisme économique actuel du continent. L’Afrique du XXIème est en mouvement, en croissance, riche de ses réserves naturelles et désireuse de démocratie. [..] La relation entre la France et l’Afrique doit pour cela être redéfinie, comme l’a souhaité le Président de la République française.

We intend to fight the gap that too often remains between a dated and pessimistic vision of Africa and the current economic dynamism of the continent. The Africa of the 21st century is in motion, it is growing as well as being rich in its natural reserves and eager for democracy. [..] The relationship between France and Africa needs then to be redefined, as the French President wishes.

Video of the meeting between Ouattara and Moscovici, uploaded by AbidjanNetTV.

In Togo, République Togolaise commented on the project and noted that [fr]:

Dans leur tribune, Alassane Ouattara et Pierre Moscovici appellent de leurs voeux une relation redéfinie entre la France et l'Afrique, après des décennies de liens ambigus, parfois teintés de corruption, entre Paris et ses anciennes colonies.

In their forum, Alassane Ouattara and Pierre Moscovici call for a redefined relationship between France and Africa, after decades of shadowy connections, sometimes tinged with corruption, between Paris and its former colonies.

In Jeune Afrique, Stéphane Ballong, citing Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa, noted the failure of African Governments [fr] to date and gave more details on the content of the Aid Fund for fairer contracts:

“Un ministre des mines ou des finances ne dispose pas forcément des ressources nécessaires pour employer l’expertise la meilleure au monde pour négocier des contrats équilibrés.” Il s’agit donc d’essayer de combler cette défaillance en fournissant  aux pays d’Afrique, l’assistance technique nécessaire (ressources financières et humaines) pour obtenir de meilleures conditions contractuelles [..]

“A Minister of Mines or Finance does not necessarily have the required resources to employ the best expertise in the world to negotiate balanced contracts.” We must try to address this failure by providing the necessary technical assistance (financial and human resources) to African countries, to obtain better contractual conditions [.]

He added [fr]:

Cinq grands domaines devront être couverts  par ce fonds : les conseils juridiques pour améliorer les modalités contractuelles des investissements dans les industries extractives, en amont les diagnostics sur la capacité institutionnelle des États, l’aide technique relative aux risques sociaux, les conseils pour des politiques publiques visant à développer des pôles de croissance en amont et en aval de l’industrie extractive. La France s’est engagée à apporter une contribution de quelque 15 millions d’euros qui seront repartis entre la Banque mondiale et la Banque africaine de développement.

Five main areas need to be covered by this Fund: legal advice to improve the contractual terms of the investment in the mining industries, upstream diagnostics on the institutional capacity of the governments, technical assistance relating to social risks, public policy advice aimed at developing poles of growth upstream and downstream of the mining industry. France is committed to providing a contribution of approximately EUR 15 million that will be distributed between the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Kailo Mines, Democratic Republic of the Congo by <a href="">Julien Harneis</a> on Flickr (CC-license-2.0)

Kailo Mines, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Julien Harneis on Flickr (CC-license-2.0)

A measure against the growing influence of China in Africa?

Many observers have suggested that these measures are targeted to counteract the growing influence of China in Africa [fr]. Philippe Hugon, Research Director at IRIS (Institute for International and Strategic Relations) did not fail to note the irony [fr] of the situation:

Dans le fond, les relations que la Chine entretient avec l'Afrique ressemble avec ce qui se faisait en France il y a une trentaine d'années : des liens forts dans le champs du politique, une non dissociation des liens public/privé et une importante corruption. Le tout sans être très regardant sur les situations environnementale et sociale.

Basically, the relationship that China has with Africa is similar to what was happening in France 30 years ago: strong links in the field of politics, non-separation of public and private connections along with significant corruption. All of this without being very mindful of the environmental and social situation.

Bacary Gill in the Democratic Republic of the Congo noted the different development styles [fr] of France and China in Africa:

La Chine a été un moteur pour la construction d'infrastructures. Elle fait également renaître des projets jugés insuffisamment rentables par les entreprises occidentales. Mais, certaines industries africaines naissantes ont été touchées par la concurrence chinoise, et la population locale ne bénéficie pas toujours de l'effet d'aubaine de ces nouveaux projets, en raison d'un taux insuffisant de “local content”, c'est-à-dire d'embauche et de sous-traitance locale. [..] Malgré des liens forts avec un certain nombre d’États africains, la France a eu tendance, sur le long terme, à se retirer de ce continent. Le poids des investissements, la présence militaire, tous les indicateurs vont dans ce sens.

China has been a driver for the construction of infrastructure. It also breathes new life into projects deemed insufficiently profitable by Western companies. But some fledging African industries have suffered from Chinese competition, and the local population does not always benefit from the knock-on effect of these new projects, due to an insufficient rate of ‘local content’, i.e. local employment and subcontracting. [..] Despite strong ties with a number of African States, France has long tended to withdraw from this continent. The weight of investments, military presence, everything points in that direction.

For all that, this initiative seems to indicate that France is not counting on letting China expand its influence without resistance. An interview with Mr Moscovici on Jeune Afrique confirmed France’s desires.

The French Finance Minister said [fr]:

L'Afrique subsaharienne ne représente que 3 % des exportations et des importations françaises, avec à peu près 14 milliards d'euros d'importations et 12 milliards d'exportations. C'est trop peu. Je ne veux pas critiquer la Chine, je trouve cela désuet. C'est en réorientant le partenariat entre la France et l'Afrique vers l'investissement que nous trouverons de meilleures réponses. En aidant nos entreprises à mieux appréhender le risque, qu'elles tendent à surévaluer ; à aller de l'avant, en donnant une priorité au secteur de l'énergie où nous avons une grande expertise. Nous n'avons pas à avoir peur des Chinois.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3% of French imports and exports, with about 14 billion Euros of imports and 12 billion Euros of exports. It’s not enough. I do not want to criticize China, I find that outdated. By reorienting the partnership between France and Africa towards investment we will have better outcomes. We will help our companies to better understand the risk that they tend to overestimate and moving forward, we will give priority to the energy sector where we have great expertise. We have nothing to fear from China.

In Madagascar, the role of China in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, in particular illegal rosewood, has been discussed in detail.  However, the role of France in the Madagascar political crisis of 2009 has made local observers weary of French initiatives to help Africa.

Regarding this, Lalatiana reported on the difficulties for Francophone Africa [fr] after colonisation, and received this comment from Rajo Rajaonarivelo (in the comment section):

Il est indéniable que les français ont voulu implanter des modèles de gouvernance et des gouvernants qui servent leurs intérêts dans les pays anciennement colonisés. Mais, comme on dit, it takes two to tango, il faut bien que nos gouvernants soient d’accord. Etait-ce le cas ? à nous tous d’y répondre. Sur un autre plan, avant la colonisation et même quelques années après, nous avions atteint l’auto-suffisance en riz. Il y a même eu des années où Madagascar en exportait. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes obligés d’importer 200 000 à 300 000 tonnes par an. Je ne pense pas que la France ou le Royaume-uni ait un quelconque intérêt là-dedans.

It is undeniable that the French wanted to establish governance models and governments that served their interests in former colonies. But, as they say, it takes two to tango, our rulers must agree. Was this the case? It is up to all of us to answer. On another level, prior to colonization  and even for a few years after, we were self-sufficient with respect to rice. There were even years where Madagascar exported it. Today, we are forced to import 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes per year. I don't think that France or the United Kingdom has any interest in this.

There seems then to be consensus that African countries need to better understand how to negotiate the exploitation of their natural resources. If this measure actually leads to fairer contracts, it is doubtful that anyone will be concerned that it was conceived with specific geopolitical objectives in mind.

August 27 2012

Togo: Sex Strike to Push for Reforms writes [fr] about the ongoing protests in Lomé, Togo :

The lawyer Isabelle Améganvi of the ANC [National Alliance for Change] in Togo has officially stated that “the Togolese women had decided to observe a sex strike from Monday on to compel men to push for changes in Togo. “

August 23 2012

Togo: 11 People Missing After Clashes Between Police and Protesters

Koaci writes that 11 protesters are reported missing [fr] after the police clashed with thousands of protesters on the streets of Lomé on August 23:

Police forces have used violence so far but they were quickly overwhelmed. For the first time, the whole city was filled with protesters.

August 21 2012

August 18 2012

Togo: Is Your Mobile Phone Tapped ?

Syvlio Combey, a human rights activist in Togo, shares tips (via Allain Jules) on how to determine whether your mobile phone is tapped [fr] in Togo.  Togolese citizens have been subjected to various forms of Human Rights violations by the police in the past couple of months.

June 20 2012

Rediscovering Africa's ‘Forgotten' History

[All links lead to pages in French, unless otherwise stated]

The colonial period in Africa has often been singled out, rightly or wrongly, regarding the numerous troubles affecting the continent. The debate on the real impact of colonization on the development of African countries and their intermittent problems is rarely consensual. However, there is one aspect of this period that has caused less controversy: the ignorance of pre-colonial African history.

It is not uncommon to find that a significant number of African students from both the colonial and post-colonial periods have a very rudimentary knowledge of Africa's history. These same students often know the history of the colonizing country better than that of their own country, a phenomenon underlined by the expression “Our ancestors the Gauls“ [.pdf] used not so long ago in Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal.

Women doing their hair- Antananarivo,&nbsp;Madagascar. Vintage photographic postcard, c.1907, photograph by Collection M. T., printed by Ateliers de Phototypie Guende, Marseille, France. Shared by postaletrice on Flickr (CC-BY-NC-3.0)

Women doing their hair- Antananarivo, Madagascar. Vintage photographic postcard, c.1907, photograph by Collection M. T., printed by Ateliers de Phototypie Guende, Marseille, France. Shared by postaletrice on Flickr (CC-BY-NC-3.0)

Dangers of neglecting our past

Contrary to what former French President Nicholas Sarkozy said in Dakar, Senegal [en] in 2007, on the place of African men in history [en], the history of the African continent is full of rich civilizations and iconic characters [en]- a story that is too often overlooked or ignored.

It was in response to the famous Dakar speech that Adame Ba Konaré [en], a Malian historian, wrote with the help of fellow historians a collection of essays called ‘Petit précis de remise à niveau sur l'histoire africaine à l'usage du président Sarkozy‘ (A new short synopsis of African history from President Sarkozy's perspective). In the introduction to this collection, the authors explain why it is necessary to better understand the history of Africa and how to do it:

Il faut surtout se préoccuper de disséminer le plus largement possible l’histoire, la vraie histoire de l’Afrique et des peuples africains, en Afrique et hors d’Afrique. La jeunesse africaine est avide de savoir. Elle se pose légitimement des questions qui reviennent presque toujours à celle-ci : comment se fait-il que nous en soyons là où nous sommes aujourd’hui ? Parallèlement à l’écrit, nous disposons désormais de toutes sortes de moyens techniques pour procéder au mieux à cette dissémination.

Above all, the history should be spread as widely as possible; the true history of Africa and African people both in and outside Africa. African youth are eager to learn. They ask legitimate questions which almost always come back to: how did we get to where we are today? Along with writing, we now have all kinds of technical means to best proceed with this dissemination.

YouTube user Dembeto has uploaded a video [fr] of a programme discussing the forgotten history of Africa:

In Guinea, Papa Attigou Bah warns against the consequences of forgetting history, given the periodic political crises experienced by the continent. In an article ‘L'Afrique politique, une histoire oubliee?' (African politics, a history forgotten?), he asks:

La nouvelle génération africaine, celle née pendant et après les indépendances, pourra-t-elle objectivement bénéficier de l'enseignement de l'histoire des luttes politiques successives engendrées par nos anciens pendant la période postcoloniale intitulée l'époque des indépendances africaines? Aussi, quel bilan l'Afrique tire-t-elle aujourd'hui de ses douloureuses décennies de lutte politique et démocratique gérée cette fois par cette même génération qui a milité pour les indépendances africaine ? [..] L'Afrique peut et doit  être le continent de l'avenir dans ce 3ème millénaire, à condition que la nouvelle génération africaine prenne toutes ses responsabilités devant l'histoire.

Could Africa's new generation, those born during and after independence, objectively benefit from the teaching of the history of successive political struggles generated by our ancestors during the postcolonial period known as the time of African independence? Also, what assessment does Africa take today from its painful decades of political and democratic struggles managed this time by the same generation who fought for African independence? […] Africa can and must be the continent of the future in this third millennium, provided that the new African generation take full responsibility for history.

In Madagascar, books written by Malagasy people on their own history are not plentiful. This can be explained by the fact that French is the dominant language in what is theoretically a bilingual setting. Rakotoarisoa Victor James explains:

Le bilinguisme est effectif, au profit Français. Parmi les huit principales matières officielles en Terminale, seul le Malgache se fait en malgache et deux autres (la Philosophie et l’Histoire-Géographie) pour lesquelles l’enseignant (en dispensant ses cours), et les élèves (quand ils traitent leurs sujets d’examens) ont le choix. Cette interprétation nous montre en effet que, dans le cadre de l’enseignement apprentissage, le Malgache est légèrement moins important que le Français.

Bilingualism works effectively in favour of French. Of the eight main official subjects in the final year of school, only Malagasy and two other subjects (Philosophy and History/Geography) are taught in Malagasy, for which the teacher (when giving the course) and students (when they take their examinations) have a choice. This situation shows that, as part of teaching and learning, Malagasy is slightly less important than French.

Relearning history

Several initiatives promote a reappropriation of African history by its citizens. UNESCO launched a project [en] in 1964 to develop the ‘General History of Africa' which aims to:

..remédier à l’ignorance généralisée sur le passé de l’Afrique. Pour relever ce défi qui consistait à reconstruire une histoire  de l’Afrique libérée des préjugés raciaux hérités de la traite négrière et de la colonisation et favoriser une perspective africaine,  l’UNESCO a fait appel aux plus grands spécialistes africains et internationaux de l’époque. [..] Supervisée par un Comité scientifique international dont deux tiers étaient africains, l’élaboration des huit volumes de l’Histoire générale de l’Afrique a mobilisé plus de 230 historiens et autres spécialistes pendant plus de 35 années.

…remedy the widespread ignorance about Africa's past. To face up to this challenge of reconstructing the history of an Africa free of racial prejudice inherited from the slave trade and colonization and to promote an African perspective, UNESCO has called upon the greatest African and international scholars of our time. […] The development of eight volumes [en] of the General History of Africa, overseen by an International Scientific Committee of which two thirds were African, has called upon more than 230 historians and other specialists for over 35 years.

The Facebook group Mémoires d'Afrique (Memories of Africa) aims to start:

Un débat autour d’une figure de l’histoire africaine ou des peuples noirs. L’objet est de libérer la parole sur des questions souvent taboues, de dépoussiérer le panthéon noir [..] notre modeste objectif est juste de faire découvrir à nos enfants, à la grande famille panafricaine et ses diasporas, de susciter le débat et peut-être des passions. [..] Vous pouvez vous exprimer sur un sujet qui vous passionne et qui rentre dans le champ qui nous intéresse ici. Sans jamais tomber dans la polémique, l'insulte ou l'intolérance [..] il faut espérer que notre passion pour l'histoire de notre continent continuera de nous unir.

[…] a debate around a figure in the history of Africa or black people. The objective is to allow speech about issues that are often taboo, to dust off the black pantheon […] our modest goal is simply to allow our children, our great Pan-African family and its diaspora, to discover, to stimulate debate, and perhaps passion. […] You can speak on a topic you are passionate about that enters the field of interest here. Without ever falling into controversy, insult or intolerance […] we hope that our passion for the history of our continent will continue to unite us.

A rich history, it is too large to detail representatively so selected pieces are discussed, for example the history of Togbè Agokoli, King of the Ewes, founder of the Kingdom of Notsé [en] in Togo:

In Accra, Ghana, a Black History Month [en] was organised last March to celebrate Pan-African history. Many Internet users appreciate this desire to make African history more widely known.

After viewing the video above, netizen Boris Amouzou said on Facebook:

Moi ce que j'aime dans cette émission, c'est qu'elle nous permet de revivre cette partie de l'histoire du Togo qui nous échappe..

What I like about this programme is that it allows us to relive the part of Togo's history that we missed…

But to relearn the history of the continent is a long process. Jacques Binet reminds us that African leaders also bear some of the blame for this forgotten history:

Il faut rappeler en effet que l’opinion publique et les parlementaires africains voulaient une école et des programmes  exactement conformes à ceux en usage en France.

We should remember that public opinion and African parliamentarians wanted a school and programmes that conformed exactly to those in France.

Malassem, however, thinks that ignorance of African history is no longer a problem of lack of resources but of will:

Afrique mon Afrique. Afrique des fiers guerriers. L'histoire a toujours une trace. Il est juste dommage pour celui qui veut rester à tout jamais dans l'ignorance.

Africa, my Africa. Africa of the proud warriors. History always has a trail. It's just a shame for those who want to stay in the dark forever.


June 19 2012

Togo: Violent Police Clash With ‘Save Togo' Protesters

A peaceful march by the ‘Save Togo‘ collective [fr] on June 12, 2012, degenerated into a stand off with security forces. Around 120 injured were recorded [fr] during clashes over 12-13 June. Amongst other things, the protesters are calling for the implementation of recommendations made by the National Commission on Human Rights relating to torture and wide ranging constitutional change.

Togo is in a period of political instability following the widely disputed 2005 presidential elections, which saw the arrival in power of Faure Gnassingbé Eyadema [fr], son of former president Gnassingbé Eyadema. Other demonstrations are scheduled for the upcoming week.

Repression of the demonstrations on June 13, 2012, by the 'Save Togo' collective. Used with permission

Repression of the demonstrations on June 13, 2012, by the 'Save Togo' collective. Used with permission

The birth of a collective

The ‘Save Togo' collective brings together several political and human rights organisations. It was created on April 4 in Lomé and totals 17 groups, including 7 organisations dedicated to the defense of human rights [fr]. The collective was born out of an appraisal of Togo's political, economic and social situation [fr]:

Le processus démocratique amorcé au Togo depuis les années 1990 peine à se concrétiser faute d’alternance au sommet de l’Etat. Ainsi notre pays continue de traverser une crise enrôlée dans un cycle infernal sans précédent et sur tous les plans.

Au plan politique, les accords issus de multiples négociations n’ont jamais trouvé d’application effective et efficiente. Le plus inquiétant est l’intrusion fréquente et violente dans le débat politique de certains éléments des forces armées togolaises, réels détenteurs du pouvoir politique, foulant aux pieds leurs obligations républicaines d’impartialité et de neutralité.

Au plan institutionnel, force est de constater que toutes les institutions de la République chargées de réguler la vie démocratique et de contrôler l’action du pouvoir sont malheureusement instrumentalisées.

Au plan économique, le pillage systématique des ressources de l’Etat par un groupuscule de personnes pendant des décennies a fait basculer le pays dans un processus effréné d’endettement.

Au plan social, cette confiscation des richesses du pays par une minorité a plongé plus de 65% de la population dans une misère effroyable; la grande majorité des ménages ne pouvant ni s’offrir plus d’un repas par jour, ni s’assurer les soins de santé primaires, ni subvenir aux besoins de scolarisation de leurs enfants.

Les violations massives des Droits de l’Homme ont atteint leur summum avec les pratiques de torture et de toutes les autres formes de traitements cruels, inhumains et dégradants, interdites et réprimées par les Conventions des Nations Unies que le Togo a pourtant ratifiées depuis plus de 25 ans

The process of democratisation begun in Togo in the 1990s is unable to become a reality due to the constant changes at the highest levels of the state. Thus, every aspect of life in our country is stuck in an unprecedented and never-ending crisis.

On a political level, agreements reached over the course of multiple negotiations have never been effectively or efficiently implemented. Most worrying are the frequent and violent intrusions into the political debate made by certain factions within the Togolese armed forces, the real holders of political power, making a mockery of their republican obligation to neutratily and impartiality.

At an institutional level, it must be concluded that all the institutions of the Republic tasked with regulating political life and overseeing the actions of power are, unfortunately, being manipulated.

At an economic level, the systematic pillaging of State resources by a tiny minority over many decades has plunged the country into debt.

At a social level, this confiscation of the country' riches by a minority has plunged more than 65% of the population into abject poverty;  the vast majority of households are not able to eat more than one meal per day nor take care of basic healthcare needs, nor provide for their children's educational needs.

The widespread violation of human rights has reached its peak with the practice of torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, which are forbidden or suppressed under the United Nations Conventions ratified by Togo over 25 years ago.

The objectives set by the collective are explained by Fabbi Kouassi in his blog, which describes the creation of the group [fr]. According to Kouassi, the group are demanding:

1) La démission sans délais du gouvernement qui s’est rendu coupable de faux et usage de faux
2) L’identification et la sanction de tous ceux qui ont participé à la falsification du rapport de la CNDH
3) La mise en œuvre effective et dans les meilleurs délais des recommandations formulées par la CNDH dans son rapport authentique
4) L’annulation de toutes les procédures et de tous les procès ayant conduit à l’arrestation et à la condamnation des personnes accusées dans l’affaire d’atteinte à la sûreté intérieure de l’Etat, ainsi que de ceux et celles de toutes les autres personnes torturées à l’ANR
5)Le dédommagement et la réintégration immédiate et sans condition des officiers et hommes de troupes injustement radiés de l’armée dans l’affaire de tentative d’atteinte à la sûreté intérieure de l’Etat
6)La révocation de tous les magistrats ayant connu des affaires dans lesquelles les personnes mises en cause, ont fait cas, de manière concordante, précise et persistante, d’actes de torture et autres formes de traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants sur leur personne à l’ANR et ailleurs, mais qui ont continué les procédures jusqu’à condamnation.

1)The immediate resignation of the government, who are guilty of forgery and the use of false documents
2) The identification and sanction of all those who participated in the falsification of the report by the CNDH (National Commission for Human Rights)
3) The effective and speedy implementation of the recommendations formulated by the CNDH in its true and authentic report
4) The annulment of all procedures and trials that have lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone accused of involvement in the alleged attack on the internal security of the State, as well as those of any other person tortured by the  ANR [Togo's intelligence agency]
5) The compensation and immediate and unconditional reinstatement of officers and troops unjustly discharged from the army as a result of the alleged attack on the internal security of the State
6)  The dismissal of all magistrates who were aware of cases in which those put on trial clearly, consistently and specifically reported having undergone torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading forms of treatment by the ANR and others, but continued with the trial to the point of sentencing.

Here is the video clip announcing the creation of the collective:

Since its creation, the collective has organised several marches calling for democracy and respect for human rights. Sylvio Combey from Lomé recalls one of the marches that took place on May 24 [fr]:

Les trois principaux points au menu de cette marche selon Me Adjare sont notemmeent la non prise en compte par l’exécutif togolais des recommandations de la CNDH relatives aux actes de tortures, deux projets de lois déposés à l’Assemblée nationale portant loi électorale et le découpage élecotrale mais aussi, le retour des neuf députés ANC exclus de l’Assemblée nationale. Pour le Collectif sauvons le Togo, cette attitude du gouvernement viole une diposition de la CEDAO interdisant toute modification des textes électoraux six mois avant les élections sans consensus.

The three main focuses of this march, according to Me Adjare, are most importantly the ignoring by the Togolese executive of the CNDH recommendations relating to acts of torture, two proposed laws submitted to the National Assembly on electoral law and constituency divides and also, the return of nine ANC elected members who have been exluded from the National Assembly.  For the Save Togo collective, the government's attitude is in breach of the position of CEDEAO (Economic Community of West African States), which forbids any modification of electoral legislation within six months of an election and without consensus.

Violent clashes with police

The marches organised by the collective have been violently repressed for the security forces. Combey describes the toll of the clashes [fr]:

Au deuxième jourde la révolution, la manifestation du Collectif « Sauvons le Togo » a tourné au vinaigre. Des policiers ont réprimé à coups de grenades lacrymogènes et sans merci les paisibles populations qui sesont amassées au quartier Déckon, en guise de protestation. Le Collectif dit dénombrer 54 blessés dont 24 graves dans la journée du 12 juin 2012, 65 blessés dont 32 graves. Aussi,15 personnes arrêtées le 12 juin 2012, 63 personnes le 13 juin 2012, dont une douzaine au sein de l’église saint Augustin d’Amoutivé à en croire le CST qui affirme que l’ensemble du matériel de sonorisation déployé surles lieux a été emporté et saisi. La situation emmène le coordinateur du CST, Zeus Ajavon a faire durcir le ton [..] A cet effet, le gouvernement a demandé au ministre de la sécurité etde la protection civile de« prendre des mesures additionnelles pour assurer la sécurité des biens et des personnes, ainsi que la liberté de circuler »Une réaction aussi gauche qui risque de faire enliser beaucoup plus la crise. La révolution Kpatima est en marche.

On the second day of the revolution, the demonstration by the ‘Save Togo' collective turned sour. In protest, the police mercilessly held back the crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered in the Déckon quarter with tear gas grenades. The collective says it counted 54 injured, including 24 seriously, over the course of 12 June, 65 injured, including 32 seriously. Also, 15 people arrested on June 12, 2012, and 63 on June 13, 2012, including a dozen in the church of St Augustin of Amoutivé according to the CST (Togolese Workers Confederation) who have confirmed that all of the sound equipment brought to the location was seized and taken away.    The situation led the CST coordinator, Zeus Ajavon, to harden his tone […]  To this effect, the government has demanded the Security and Civil Protection Minister to “take additional measures to ensure the security of the population, as well as their freedom of movement”. A reaction clumsy enough to risk still further entrenching the crisis. The Kpatima revolution has begun.

Photos taken during the clashes testified to the violence of the clashes [Warning: Graphic Content].

One video shows the police severely beating a demonstrator [Warning: Graphic Content]:

On Twitter the Togolese activists are using the hashtag #occupyLome to share information on the demonstrations in real time.

Wilfried Toussine from Togo tweeted:

@Toussine: “Police fire tear gas at protesters in Togo capital //#leguede #occupylome

Philoticus adds:

@Philoticus: #Togo: Il faut pousser le tyranneau vers la sortie, ici et maintenant #TGInfo #Togo #OccupyLome

@Philoticus:#Togo: Tyranny must be forced out, here and now #TGInfo #Togo #OccupyLome

And shares a worrying piece of news form one of the leaders of the march, M Célestin Agbogan:

@Philoticus: #TOGO:  M. Célestin Agbogan malmené et interpellé - La #FIDH réagit #TGInfo #OccupyLome

@Philoticus: #TOGO:  M. Célestin Agbogan mistreated and arrested - La #FIDH réagit #TGInfo #OccupyLome

June 18 2012

Togo: Protests for Human Rights Repressed with Violence

The Association “Collectif Sauvons le Togo (Save Togo) ” published images and videos  of violence following marching protests [fr] for Human Rights and Democracy in Lome, Capital City of Togo on June 12 and 13. Hundred of protesters were injured [fr] and dozens were arrested [fr].

June 13 2012

Africa: Improving Governance and Accountability with New Media

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, is a team leader of International Institute for ICT Journalism, the co-ordination organisation for African Elections Project (AEP). With over nine years of experience in management, marketing, new media, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and development, Kwami was Executive Director of AITEC Ghana and a former board member of Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).

He served as a key committee member for the organization of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) African Regional Meeting 2005. He has undertaken several training sessions on new media across Africa. He is a Steve Biko and Foster Davies Fellow.

African Elections Project was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

AEP has covered elections in Ghana, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Niger and Liberia. African Elections Project uses social media tools and ICT platforms such as blogs, interactive maps, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

L. Abena Annan (LA): What is your affiliation with the African Elections Project?

Kwami Ahiabenu, II (KA): I am part of [the] founders, currently serving as a consultant to the project, providing management support and serving as the training director.

LA: How long have you been involved with the project?

KA: Since the birth of the project in year 2008. We started the project by launching the coverage of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea elections. Ghana elections did take place in 2008 but Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea took place in subsequent years.

LA: How would you describe this project for the average person to understand? What do you intend to accomplish with it?

KA: It is an online, SMS, mobile service which provides authoritative elections information and knowledge specifically news, analysis, elections powered by ICTs and new media. The service is brought to our audience by a team of dedicated journalists supported by civil society actors and citizen journalists

LA: What countries have you worked in? Do you intend to go to other countries as your website states only 10?

KA: We have worked in 11 countries to date, namely Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Liberia and Niger working across English, French and Portuguese speaking countries. We currently cover each election happening on the continent on our homepage with Ghana elections 2012 being the current country we are covering. In addition to elections coverage, we have done some work in post-elections focusing on transparency and accountability issues and currently in partnership with Africatti we are monitoring health and education issues in two districts of Ghana under “Enabling Governance and Economic Transparency in Ghana using new media Project,” with plans to roll out to other African countries in the near future.

LA: How can people effectively use your website or information provided on it?

KA: Our audiences come to our website because of the high quality content which we generate and they consider it useful for themselves, so we can only improve our services by ensuring we constantly provide timely and relevant content to our audience base.

LA: Do you believe new technologies have improved democracy in Africa? Why?

KA: Democracy is a long journey, in this direction new technologies are assuming important roles in ensuring our people benefit from the fruits of democracy. That said, the journey is a long one; though we are recording some improvements we still have a long way to go to ensure that Africa as a whole nurtures its democracy.

LA: How empowering would you say technology has become to citizens of Africa?

KA: Technology can only play a role when the fundamentals are in place. If there is no true freedom of speech or free press, technology role becomes limited, though one may argue that technology can contribute to empowerment but it is important to stress the fact that technology plays a facilitating role and it works best when empowering environments are in place and protected to ensure technology’s role strive.

LA: What do you think the effect of technology on democracy will be 10 years from now?

KA: Technology roles cannot be discussed in isolation. Rapid growth of the tenets of democracy on the continent is a sure guarantee that technology impact on democracy is going to grow and become very important each passing day.

LA: What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

KA: We like to deploy cutting edge technologies in our coverage, but the high cost of ICT tools coupled by expensive bandwidth are always a challenge. Also user content generation is picking albeit slowly and our work will be made more interesting if the grandmother in the village can also contribute to our project.

LA: Any successes so far?

KA: The project has contributed significantly to building the capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in covering elections using new technologies, more importantly providing them with skills set they need to cover elections impartially thereby contributing to better elections which is a cornerstone of any democracy. One key achievement worthy of mention is the successful pilot of Ghana Post elections Project (”Because Accountability Counts”), where we contribute to the promotion of the culture of political accountability by providing a mechanism for citizens to match campaign promises and manifesto versus action and inaction of the ruling government.

The project incorporates citizen journalism mostly driven by mobile phones and has so far covered elections in 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Liberia and Namibia. This is one of key result area.

The project has also contributed local content from an African prospective for the global market, thus, presenting the African story using African voices.

We have also contributed to the body of knowledge in African elections and democracy through our country specific countries and recently we contributed “A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa” article in the Journal of Journalism Practice.

At its innovation fair, “Moving beyond Conflict”, Cape Town, South Africa 2010, the World Bank ranked African Elections Projects as innovative in the area of improving governance and accountability through communication technologies.

Thumbnail image: An elderly lady being escorted by his son to vote. Photo courtesy of @liberiaelection.
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