2001 Scores

Status: Partly Free
Freedom Rating: 5.0
Civil Liberties: 5
Political Rights: 5

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Togo received an upward trend arrow for a general easing of repression and for allowing an international investigation into allegations of state-sponsored killings following controversial 1998 presidential elections.


The government of President Gnasingbé Eyadéma made an uncharacteristic move toward openness in 2000 by allowing an international panel to investigate reports of hundreds of state-sponsored killings following the June 1998 presidential elections. Togo had called for the investigation after the rights group Amnesty International made the allegations in a May 1999 report that had initially prompted Togo to pursue legal action. The investigative team, made up of representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, visited Togo in November. Further progress was made in 2000 in healing the rift over the 1998 elections. The government and opposition in July set up an independent electoral commission with an opposition lawyer as its chairman. The European Union (EU) hailed the move, noting that it could help lead to a resumption of aid, which was suspended in 1993 because of the government's resistance to democratic reform.

Togoland was a German colony for more than three decades until France seized it at the outset of World War I. It was held as French territory until its independence in 1960. After assuming direct power in 1967, Eyadéma suspended the constitution and extended his repressive rule through mock elections and a puppet political party. In 1991, free political parties were legalized, and multiparty elections were promised. The transition faltered, however, as soldiers and secret police harassed, attacked, and killed opposition supporters.

The government has been criticized for reported sanctions busting. In September, it announced a ban on uncertified diamonds from Angola following accusations by a UN panel that Togo had facilitated arms transfers to rebels in Angola in exchange for diamonds.

Eighty percent of Togolese are engaged in subsistence agriculture. Corruption, military spending, and large, inefficient state-owned companies impede economic growth.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

The Togolese people cannot choose their representatives freely. In the 1993 presidential election, which the opposition boycotted, Eyadéma claimed to have won 96 percent of the vote. His June 1998 reelection was blatantly fraudulent, with the government claiming he had won approximately 51 percent of the vote, thereby avoiding a runoff election against a single opposition candidate. Electoral rolls were suspect, and multiple voter cards were issued. The National Election Commission was not independent and was either incapable of, or unwilling to, provide adequate logistical support. Hundreds of domestic, EU-trained observers were denied accreditation. Eyadéma spent lavishly and used state resources for his campaign. State media coverage was heavily biased in his favor and virtually ignored Gilchrest Olympio, the main opposition candidate. Olympio, the leader of the Union of Forces for Change party, declared from exile that he was the real winner with 59 percent of the vote. He is the son of the country's founding president, who was murdered in 1963 as Eyadéma, then a demobilized sergeant who had served in France's colonial wars, led an army coup to topple the country's democratically elected government.

Violence and intimidation marred the 1994 legislative elections. Opposition parties won a majority in the national assembly, but splits and flawed 1996 by-elections allowed Eyadéma's Rally of the Togolese People party to regain control of the legislature. The opposition boycotted March 1999 legislative polls, which were marred by fraud and saw the ruling party win 79 out of 81 seats contested. The remaining 2 seats went to independent candidates.

The judiciary is still heavily influenced by the president. Traditional courts handle many minor matters. Courts are understaffed and inadequately funded. Pretrial detentions are lengthy, and prisons are severely overcrowded.

Killings, arbitrary arrest, and torture continue, although they have abated. Security forces commit abuses with impunity, and illegal detention is common. Human rights groups are closely monitored and sometimes harassed. Constitutionally protected religious freedom is generally respected. Freedom of assembly is allowed, but is often restricted among the government's political opponents. Demonstrations are often banned or violently halted. Ethnic discrimination is rife. Political and military power is narrowly held by members of a few ethnic groups from northern Togo, especially Eyadéma's Kabye ethnic group. Southerners dominate the country's commerce, and violence occasionally flares between the two groups.

A number of private newspapers publish in Lomé, but independent journalists are subject to harassment and the perpetual threat of various criminal charges. Private radio and television stations offer little independent local coverage. The government controls and allows little opposition access to the broadcast media. The Press and Communication Code of 1998 declares in its first article that the media are free, but restricts press freedom in most of the 108 other articles. Libel is a criminal offense; it is a crime punishable by up to three months in prison to "offend the honor, dignity or esteem" of the president and other government leaders. The Togolese Media Observatory, which includes both government and private journalists, was established in November 1999 and is charged with protecting press freedom and improving the professionalism of journalists.

Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, women's opportunities for education and employment are limited. A husband may legally bar his wife from working or may receive her earnings. Customary law bars women's rights in divorce and inheritance rights to widows. Violence against women is common. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced by the country's northern ethnic groups. A 1998 law prohibiting the practice is not enforced. Several organizations promote the rights of women.

Togo's constitution includes the right to form and join unions, but essential workers are excluded. Health care workers may not strike. Only 20 percent of the labor force is unionized. Unions have the right to bargain collectively, but most labor agreements are brokered by the government in tripartite talks with unions and management. Several labor federations are politically aligned.

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