In the small West African country of Togo, the opposition and the government of President Faure Gnassingbe are currently holding yet another peace talks after months of sustained political protests in virtually all areas of the country. Many observers see the parley which opened on Monday as the last chance to reach the badly desired truce.
For the past five months, there had been massive public protests against the rule of President Gnassingbe, who actually inherited political power from his father after about four decades of authoritarian rule. The President is the current holder of the rotating chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
Political pundits say the government needs the peace parley to make head way almost the same way the protesters do. Thousands of people have formed the habit of holding vibrant marches through the streets calling on the president to resign while the government must provide term limits for the presidency.
On social media, many skeptical voices are speaking out against holding what they described as “an umpteenth dialogue” in Togo, which has been ruled for 50 years by the same family. Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005. The introduction of a multiparty system with a new constitution in 1992 did not bring any noticeable impact in the country’s democratic process.
Fresh efforts to reform the voting and presidential systems in 2006, a year after Faure Gnassingbe’s victory in a disputed election, also failed.
From the middle of 2017, protesters have been demonstrating across the country almost every week, demanding that the president should quit after he proposed changes to the constitution to enable him to stay in power longer. The opposition wants to restrict the presidential term to a maximum of two five-year stints in office, and introduce a two-round voting system.
Last week, the UN and the EU both hailed the upcoming talks, calling on all stakeholders in Togo “to work in good faith to reach a consensus”. However, sources close to President Gnassingbe have told newsmen that whatever the agenda of the talks contain, the question of the president stepping down from power any time soon does not arise.