Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Togo’s civil liberties rating improved from 5 to 4 due to the launch of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, as well as a decrease in violence throughout the country.
The government oversaw notable reforms to the electoral code and election commission in 2009 as the country prepared for a presidential election in early 2010. The political environment was generally more peaceful than in previous years, and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched in May to address past human rights abuses. However, President Faure Gnassingbe’s tolerance for dissent remained limited, and in April the army violently repressed an alleged coup plot led by his brother.
While there were a number of minor confrontations between security forces and opposition demonstrators during 2009, Gnassingbe showed the least tolerance for opposition within the RPT and his own family. In April, the army raided the home of his elder brother, Kpatcha, on suspicion that he was planning a coup. The raid led to a gun battle that left three people dead. Kpatcha Gnassingbe, 18 soldiers, and 10 civilians were eventually arrested and charged with rebellion.
Togo is not an electoral democracy. Despite international consensus that the 2007 legislative elections were relatively free and fair, the 2005 presidential vote was blatantly fraudulent and marked by serious violence. The president is elected to five-year terms and appoints the prime minister. Members of the 81-seat, unicameral National Assembly are also elected to five-year terms, using a party-list system in multimember districts. The RPT remains the dominant party, but the opposition UFC and CAR parties won a significant share of seats in 2007.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, though it is often disregarded. Blatant impunity for past crimes against journalists encourages self-censorship. Following the crackdown on Kpatcha Gnassingbe’s alleged coup plot in April 2009, the government announced a temporary ban on all call-in radio and television programs, ostensibly to “prevent public opinion from prejudicing the case against Kpatcha.” In October, a new law gave the state broadcasting council the power to impose severe penalties, including suspending publications for up to six months, withdrawing press cards, and seizing equipment, on journalists responsible for “serious errors.” The government runs Togo’s only daily newspaper, Togo Press, as well as the only national television station. Private print and broadcast outlets exist, but they are limited in capacity and often heavily politicized. Access to the internet is generally unrestricted, but few people use the medium due to high costs.
Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, women’s opportunities for education and employment are limited. Nonetheless, in 2009 Victoire Dogbe Tomegah became the first woman to serve as presidential chief of staff. Customary law discriminates against women in divorce and inheritance, giving them the legal rights of minors, and a husband may legally bar his wife from working or choose to receive her earnings. As in much of West Africa, child trafficking for the purpose of slavery is a serious problem in Togo. Prosecutions under a 2005 child-trafficking law are rare.