Pierre Warga is among the majority of Togo’s 6 million citizens who have spent their entire lives ruled by the Gnassingbe family. Eyadema Gnassingbe was in power for 38 years before dying of a heart attack in 2005. His son Faure Gnassingbe was then installed by the military before winning a highly flawed and violent election later that year, and a re-election in 2010. The small West African country goes to the polls Thursday for legislative elections that will test whether recent signs of discontent might legitimately threaten Gnassingbe’s hold on power. Some experts say there may be, for the first time, vulnerabilities in a country that has seen an increasingly daring public outcry against entrenched poverty, high youth unemployment and controversial crackdowns by the security forces.
“The regime is still strong but the president is not as strong as his father,” said Lydie Boka, a Togo expert and manager of the France-based risk analysis firm Strategico. “The population is younger, they are interested in information technology and they are following what’s going on in the world. It’s going to be harder for the regime to win outright.”
Development has lagged under Gnassingbe. Despite new campaign promises for better education and more jobs, the literacy rate remains stubbornly low at 57 percent, according to this year’s United Nations Human Development Report. The African Development Bank has voiced concern about youth unemployment and underemployment, which it says together affect nearly 30 percent of Togo’s young workers.
“How can I have any confidence when the government makes these promises?” asked Warga, a 27-year-old communications student. “They haven’t been able to accomplish these things for the last 40 years.”
In this year’s U.N. Development Program survey of “life satisfaction” in 159 countries worldwide, Togo placed dead last.
Full Article: Togo family dynasty may be tested in polls | Boston Herald.