While regular multiparty elections have taken place since 1992, Togo’s politics have been controlled since 1963 by the late Gnassingbé Eyadéma and his son, current president Faure Gnassingbé. Advantages including security services dominated by the president’s ethnic group and malapportioned election districts have helped Gnassingbé and his party retain power. Opposition calls for constitutional and electoral reforms have been harshly repressed for years.
- In January, police from the Central Service of Criminal Investigations (SRIC) arrested four trade unionists from the trade union Synergie des Travailleurs du Togo (STT) without warrants. That month, eight members of the teacher’s union, Syndicat des Enseignants du Togo (SET), were detained after calling for a teachers strike.
- Also in January, the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) shut down and withdrew the license of the newspaper L’Indépendant Express for publishing an article about four government ministers who were accused of stealing golden spoons at a reception organized by a financial institution. Its editor, Carolos Ketohou, was detained illegally for five days after the story was published.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||1.001 4.004|
The president, who serves as head of state and holds most executive power, is elected for five-year terms. The president appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government. Presidential term limits were eliminated in 2002, then restored through a constitutional amendment in 2019; they did not apply retroactively, meaning the incumbent Gnassingbé could seek two additional terms. The two-round presidential election system, requiring a runoff if no candidate wins a majority in the first round, was also restored.
Gnassingbé—initially installed as president by the military in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma—secured a fourth term in the 2020 election, ostensibly with 71 percent of the vote. Permits for domestic civil society groups to observe the polls were denied or revoked, representatives of the US-based National Democratic Institute were expelled before the election, and mobile messaging applications were blocked on election day. A relatively small number of observers from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were granted entry and produced largely uncritical reports.
The runner-up, former prime minister Agbeyome Kodjo of the opposition Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD), was credited with 19 percent of the vote. He and other opposition members alleged that the election was stolen, accusing the government of using fake polling stations and stuffing ballot boxes. Security forces surrounded Kodjo’s house and that of retired archbishop Philippe Kpodzro to prevent them from leading protests.
After Kodjo’s lawsuit challenging the election results was rejected by the Constitutional Court in March 2020, his parliamentary immunity was lifted, and he was arrested and temporarily detained in April—along with other members of his party—for asserting that he was the legitimate president. Kodjo was later released and is currently living in exile.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution calls for a bicameral legislature, but the Senate has never been established. Members of the current 91-seat National Assembly, which exercises all legislative powers, were elected for five-year terms through proportional representation in multimember districts. In the 2018 elections, the main opposition parties led a 14-party boycott, citing several unmet demands regarding constitutional and electoral reform. Gnassingbé’s Union for the Republic (UNIR) won 59 of the 91 seats. The Union of Forces for Change (UFC), which led the opposition before aligning itself with the government in 2010, won 7 seats. Observers from the AU and ECOWAS said the elections had been held “properly” in a “calm environment,” though opposition protests had been violently suppressed in the weeks before balloting, and voter turnout was low in opposition-leaning areas.
Municipal councilors were elected in 2019 in the first local polls since 1987. The UNIR won more than 60 percent of council seats; the ANC placed second. Regional elections scheduled for 2021 were postponed due to challenges in negotiations between the government and opposition.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||1.001 4.004|
Elections are organized and supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), whose membership by law should be balanced with appointments by the ruling party and the opposition. However, only 2 of the 19 members were from the opposition in the 2020 election. Among other irregularities on election day, opposition members were reportedly denied access to some polling places to monitor the vote, and the CENI refused to publish detailed results for each precinct. The Constitutional Court, responsible for verifying election results, is stacked with close allies of the president. Prominent civil society groups have joined major opposition parties in their calls for a reliable electoral register, fairly apportioned legislative districts, a reorganized CENI, a more independent Constitutional Court, and the announcement of precinct-based election results.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||2.002 4.004|
Opposition parties are generally free to form and operate and candidates can also run as independents. However, the dominance of the UNIR undermines the visibility and competitiveness of other parties. Opposition members are sometimes arrested in connection with peaceful political activities.
Since 2017, authorities have suppressed antigovernment protests organized by opposition parties with deadly force, arresting and torturing opposition supporters. Opposition leader Tikpi Atchadam, who led massive antigovernment demonstrations in 2017, remains hiding in exile. Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, opposition candidates faced obstacles such as denial of permits to hold rallies. In the weeks after the polls, several opposition leaders were arrested.
The court system is used to sideline prominent opposition members. An arrest warrant was issued against Kodjo following the 2020 election, and former minister and opposition party leader Djimon Ore was imprisoned in May 2021 for two years after criticizing the president.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||1.001 4.004|
Gnassingbé’s family has controlled Togo’s powerful presidency since the 1960s. He and the UNIR have retained power thanks in large part to the structure of the electoral system, including district malapportionment in legislative elections and their de facto control over institutions such as the CENI and the Constitutional Court. The return to the two-round presidential election system did not unify the opposition during the 2020 contest.
Genuine opposition parties have no presence in the National Assembly following their boycott of the 2018 elections, though they did gain mayoralties and municipal council seats in the 2019 local elections.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||1.001 4.004|
In 2005, the military installed Gnassingbé as president, in violation of the constitution. While security forces defend the regime through intimidation, the UNIR has been accused of relying on patronage and financial incentives, including the distribution of benefits to buy votes at election time.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||2.002 4.004|
The Éwé, Togo’s largest ethnic group, have historically been excluded from positions of influence; they are prominent within the opposition. Since 2010, the community has been politically split, as the Éwé-dominated UFC reached a power-sharing agreement with the government while the majority remained loyal to opposition forces. The government is dominated by members of Gnassingbé’s Kabyé ethnic group, who also make up most security personnel.
Women face some societal pressure that discourages their active and independent political participation. Only 16 percent of the National Assembly members elected in 2018 were women. Candidate registration fees were halved for women ahead of the 2019 local elections. In 2020, Victoire Tomegah Dogbé became the first woman to serve as Togo’s prime minister, and she named women to a record 30 percent of the ministerial posts in her cabinet.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||2.002 4.004|
The president holds most policymaking power, and the National Assembly, which is controlled by the ruling party, does not serve as an effective check on executive authority. A pattern of flawed elections has undermined the legitimacy of both the executive and the legislature.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||1.001 4.004|
Corruption is a serious and long-standing problem. The government has adopted legislation ostensibly designed to reduce corruption, such as a 2018 law on money laundering and funding terrorism, but these legal changes have not been effectively enforced, nor have high-ranking officials been convicted. Most members of the High Authority for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and Related Offenses (HAPLUCIA) are presidential appointees, raising concerns about the body’s independence. HAPLUCIA cannot prosecute cases itself and must make referrals to the public prosecutor.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||2.002 4.004|
A 2016 freedom of information law guarantees the right to access government information, though some information is exempted, and the government does not always respond to requests. Most public officials are not required to disclose their assets.
There is a lack of transparency regarding state tenders. The newspaper that published a 2020 investigative report alleging that officials had embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in a scheme involving petroleum import contracts was prosecuted and found guilty of defamation. However, the government did commence an audit of petroleum imports.
|Are there free and independent media?||2.002 4.004|
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the constitution but inconsistently upheld in practice. Although numerous independent media outlets offer a variety of viewpoints, restrictive press laws and a history of impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists encourage self-censorship. There is no mechanism to appeal decisions made by the HAAC, which can suspend outlets for violations of broadly worded regulations. In January 2021, the HAAC shut down and withdrew the license of the newspaper L’Indépendant Express for publishing an article about four government ministers who were accused of stealing golden spoons at a reception organized by a financial institution. Its editor, Carolos Ketohou, was detained illegally for five days after the story was published. Three other newspapers—L’Alternative, The Guardian, and La Symphonie—were suspended for two to four months for articles that included corruption allegations.
Police have used violence, cut mobile phone and internet service, and blocked messaging apps to discourage and hamper press coverage of opposition protests. Togolese journalists have also been targeted by Pegasus spyware.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||3.003 4.004|
Religious freedom is constitutionally protected and generally respected in practice. Islam, Catholicism, and Protestant Christianity are recognized by the state; other groups must register as religious associations to receive similar benefits. The registration process has been subject to lengthy delays and a large backlog; approximately 900 applications from religious groups remained pending in 2021; no new applications had been accepted. Senior Catholic clergy are among the government critics who have reportedly been targeted with surveillance software.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||2.002 4.004|
Academics are generally able to engage in political discussions. However, security forces have repeatedly used violence and arrests to quell student protests. The government may have used spyware to target critical academics.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||2.002 4.004|
Though citizens speak openly in private discussion, they may be arrested on incitement or other charges for speaking critically about the government to journalists or human rights organizations.
A 2018 cybersecurity law criminalized publication of false information and breaches of public morality, among other problematic provisions that could affect freedom of expression online. The law also granted police greater authority to conduct electronic surveillance. In July 2021, reporters identified 300 Togolese phone numbers—belonging to activists, journalists, and members of the political opposition—as potential targets of Pegasus spyware.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||1.001 4.004|
While the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, several laws allow for its restriction. Police periodically use deadly violence to disperse assemblies in practice. A 2015 revision of the criminal code penalized participation in and organization of protests that had not gone through the necessary administrative procedures. In 2019, the parliament imposed new limits on the timing and location of public demonstrations and allowed authorities to restrict protests based on the availability of security personnel.
During and after the 2020 presidential election campaign, authorities denied permits for several opposition rallies and civil society events protesting the flawed electoral proceedings. Demonstrators who attempted to assemble were dispersed by police, reportedly with excessive force.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations are subject to registration rules that have sometimes been enforced arbitrarily to suppress activism on sensitive topics, such as torture and the rights of LGBT+ people. Several civil society leaders have been arrested and detained for their roles in the protest movement that began in 2017. In 2020, two members of an antitorture organization were arrested while observing security forces near Kodjo’s home; they were released without charge. The mobile phones of prodemocracy activists have been targeted with surveillance software.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
The government generally protects workers’ rights to form and join labor unions, though unions have fewer legal protections in the country’s special export-processing zone.
Police at times forcibly disperse union gatherings. In January 2021, police from the Central Service of Criminal Investigations (SRIC) arrested four trade unionists from the trade union Synergie des Travailleurs du Togo (STT) without warrants. Also that month, eight members of the teacher’s union, Syndicat des Enseignants du Togo (SET), were detained after calling for a teachers strike. In May, police forcibly dispersed a meeting of teachers; some were beaten, and some were arrested.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because police disrupted associational activity by teachers during the year, arresting without warrants the attendees of a teachers’ union meeting in January and violently dispersing a separate meeting of teachers in May.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice courts are heavily influenced by the presidency. The Constitutional Court in particular is full of ruling party appointments and is seen as partial to the ruling party. Judges on other courts are appointed by the executive based on the recommendations of a judicial council dominated by senior judges.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||1.001 4.004|
Executive influence and judicial corruption limit constitutional rights to a fair trial. Dozens of people arrested for participating in antigovernment protests in recent years have been charged, tried, and convicted in hasty proceedings. Detainees often have no access to counsel. An Irish citizen, Abdoul-Aziz Goma, has been detained without trial since 2018 and reportedly experienced torture by the police.
Corruption and inefficiency are widespread among the police, and there are also reports of arbitrary arrest. The 2018 cybersecurity law contains vague terrorism and treason provisions with heavy prison sentences and grants additional powers to the police without adequate judicial oversight.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||2.002 4.004|
Prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate food and medical care, sometimes resulting in deaths among inmates from preventable or curable diseases. The government periodically releases prisoners to address overcrowding, but the process by which individuals are chosen for release is not transparent.
Security forces reportedly torture detainees, including participants in recent antigovernment demonstrations, despite laws that ban the practice in line with the UN Convention against Torture.
Islamist militants present a growing threat to security in Togo, with some fighters from Burkina Faso reportedly taking refuge in the country. In November 2021, Togolese forces fought off armed men who had crossed the border from Burkina Faso.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||1.001 4.004|
Though ostensibly equal under the law, women continue to experience discrimination, and their opportunities for employment and education are limited. Official and societal discrimination persist against people with disabilities, certain regional and ethnic groups, and LGBT+ people, to whom antidiscrimination laws do not apply. Same-sex sexual activity is a criminal offense, and while the law is rarely enforced, LGBT+ people face police harassment.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||2.002 4.004|
The law provides for freedom of internal movement and foreign travel, but these rights are sometimes restricted by the authorities in practice. Domestic travel can involve arbitrary traffic stops at which police collect bribes.
The government restricted travel and enforced curfews at times in 2020 and 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||2.002 4.004|
The country has made regulatory improvements to ease processes such as the registration of companies and property, but in general the business environment is poorly administered, creating opportunities for corruption and driving much economic activity into the informal sector. Women do not have equal inheritance rights under customary law, which is observed mainly in rural areas.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||1.001 4.004|
Customary law puts women at a disadvantage regarding matters such as widowhood, divorce, and child custody. Polygamy is widely practiced and legally recognized. Child marriage remains a problem in some regions. Rape is illegal but rarely reported and, if reported, often ignored by authorities. Domestic violence, which is widespread, is not specifically addressed by the law. Female genital mutilation (FGM), though illegal, affects about 3 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 49, according to 2017 data.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
Protections against exploitative labor conditions, including rules on working hours, are poorly enforced, and much of the workforce is informally employed. Child labor is common in the agricultural sector and in certain urban trades; some children are subjected to forced labor. According to the US State Department 2021 Trafficking in Persons report, the government has made efforts to address human trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation but has struggled to secure convictions against perpetrators.
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Global Freedom Score42 100 partly free