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Blogging from Togo – Views of the Post-Election Protests

The post-election situation in Togo is getting increasingly complicated. Faure Gnassingbé, the son of deceased Togolese leader Gnassingbé Eyadema, has claimed victory with 60% of the votes counted in Sunday's election. But there are widespread accusations of election fraud, and opposition supporters have responded to Gnassingbé's election with violent protests. Now, L'Intelligent d'Abidjan (an independent newspaper which publishes online through a weblog) reports that opposition candidate Akitani Bob has declared himself president:

“Togolais, togolaises, votre président vous parle, oui votre président, car nous n’avons pas perdu les élections présidentielles. Cette élection présidentielle du 24 avril 2005. Vous devez le savoir pour rester mobilisés”, a déclaré M. Akitani Bob devant des journalistes à Lomé.

(My terrible translation – “My countrymen, your president is speaking, yes, your president because we didn't lose the presidential election. The presidential election of the 24th of April 2005. You must know this to stay motivated,” said M. Akitani Bob to journalists in Lomé.)

Of the bloggers around the world commenting on the situation, Words of this Yovo makes for especially interesting reading. (Yovo” means “foreigner” in the Ewe language, widely spoken in southern Togo and eastern Ghana.) The yovo in question is Jürgen Henn, a German who found himself in the village of Yipka, Togo, at the end of a bike trip that began in Germany and wound through Morocco, Algeria and Niger. Jürgen left his bike in Yipka and came back a year later, amazed to discover that it and all the rest of his possessions were intact. Fascinated, he decided to stay in the village for a while – eventually for two years – and become a bush taxi driver. His Togolese experience makes it possible for him to comment on dimensions of the situation in Togo that aren't getting much attention in mainstream media:

One very important aspect of the turmoil in Togo is always carefully avoided by the press: the ethnic dimension. Most of the security forces are Kabyé, but in most of the country outside of Kara the Kabyé life in small enclaves. Historically they are farm workers and sharecroppers; They lived and worked on land others owned. Often they were treated miserably, sometimes they were brutalized by the people around them. Under Eyadema, they were recruited into the armed forces and police. Some became the regime’s henchmen. Now they are scared that they will be killed and brutalized if the RPT loses its grip on power, so they are willing and capable of just about anything to keep the RPT in power.

Jürgen has been helping his friends in Yipka get a blog up – the village now has a group blog, Au Village. Agbessi, writing on Au Village, has a report in English about the killing of a soldier who was monitoring elections in Adeta. A more recent blog post – a recollection of his experiences as a protester at the National University, teargassed and beaten by Togolese soldiers – is powerful, harrowing and important for anyone trying to understand the anger of the Togolese opposition:

Lorsque vous avez vecu des pietinements et bastonnades de soldats et supporter la une dictature qui existait avant votre naissance et que vous avez supporte pendant plus de 26 ans de votre vie, vous regardez autrement et avec revolte ce qui se passe actuellement au Togo.

(Translated this time by my wife, who actually speaks this language – “When you have seen tramplings and beatings by soldiers, enduring a dictatorship which has existed since before your birth and which you have borne for the more than 26 years of your life, you will see differently, and with revulsion, that which has actually happened in Togo.”)

If anyone has good French and English and is interested in translating posts from the Au Village blog, I'd be very grateful and would post them on Global Voices for anyone who is interested in the Togo situation – please contact me at ethanzATgmailDOTcom or post translations in the comments section of this post.

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