Catholic leader calls on Togo politicians to be ‘patriots’

Togo President Faure Gnassingbe - in power for 13 yeas and wants more

A prominent Catholic priest in Togo has chastised the country’s political leaders for ignoring the legitimate demands being made by the Togolese people for democracy.

“On several instances, the people of Togo, of whom you are sons and daughters, have clearly demonstrated their choice of democracy as a paradigm for the political governance of the land of their ancestors. Unfortunately, the basic democratic exigencies they are calling for have been ignored by you, the political leaders,” said Father Pierre Marie Chanel Affognon in an open letter.

Affognon is the chaplain of the Association of Catholic Leaders of Togo, a position he has held since 2015 when the Catholic Church in Togo decided to create the position to provide spiritual direction for the elites of the country belonging to the Catholic Church.

Since August 2017, opposition parties have been holding street demonstrations, calling for a return to the 1992 constitution which limited presidential mandates, but which were overturned ten years later.

President Faure Gnassingbé has been in office since 2005, following the death of his father, GnassingbéEyadema. Eyadema had ruled Togo for 38 years, ever since he overthrew the country’s second president, Nicolas Grunitzky, in a coup d’état in 1967.

The Catholic bishops of Togo have supported the re-introduction of term limits and warned the political conflict could take on religious and tribal overtones, in a country that is 30 percent Christian, 20 percent Muslim, and 50 percent of the population practice indigenous religions.

In his open letter, Affognon said the political class has answered the people’s demand for democracy with “several deaths, broken families, people who have simply disappeared, material destruction, exiles, arbitrary arrests, torture and imprisonment.”

The priest said Togo’s distant and recent past has remained that of suffering and lashed out at political leaders who claim to work for the peace and stability of the nation yet have failed to concretely address the causes of unending misery.

“The situation is dire, and the dignity of our valiant people requires that you take concrete acts that promote life and not an increase in the political culture of death,” wrote Affognon.

“In essence, the socio-political crisis in our country challenges each one of you to definitively sacrifice your personal, ethnic, clannish, and partisan interests which some observers have qualified as ‘egoistic’ in order to enhance the common good which in essence is the higher good of the nation,” Affognon said.

The priest called on political leaders to perform “acts of patriotism” to clean up their tarnished image in the eyes of the people. “You are capable of doing that,” he said. “Don’t wait for anyone to rebuild our country and do not think that other nations will love Togo and the people of Togo more than you.”