In the capital Lomé, a coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups gathered tens of thousands of people demanding pro-democracy reforms. Since late August, huge demonstrations took place in Togo’s biggest cities, leading to a rough response from security forces, internet restrictions and dissident arrests. The government’s concession to (re-)introduce a two-term presidential limit through a constitutional amendment did not dissuade the protesters. In fact, the opposition boycotted the bill in parliament as the measure would exempt incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé and make him eligible for two more five-year terms. This could keep him in power until 2030, while the Gnassingbé family has been ruling Togo for 50 years already. As a result, protesters are now calling for President Gnassingbé to step down.

Impact on country risk

The dynastic succession by President Faure Gnassingbé in 2005, following the death of his father, led to nationwide demonstrations in which hundreds of people were killed. A period of political violence followed and ties with donor countries embittered. Since Gnassingbé’s controversial re-election in 2015, things gradually stabilised and Togo’s international relations improved. Moreover, the country’s macroeconomic indicators enhanced significantly around that time, inciting Credendo to open for medium-/long-term cover on Togo in category 6 for the first time. Today, democratic deficiency and slow progress in living conditions inflamed people to take it to the streets again. The constitutional vote on presidential term limits, which could keep Gnassingbé in power until 2030, will now be decided by referendum. In reaction, ongoing protests are expected across the country and might lead to violent confrontations with security forces. Most of the West African neighbouring countries have made democratic progress over the past few years. Especially the recent removal of long-standing leaders by popular resistance in Gambia and Burkina Faso might empower the opposition to persist until Gnassingbé gets isolated. Should demonstrations get violent, the regional or international community might impose sanctions against the regime.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendo.com