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Togo talks offer ‘last chance’ to resolve crisis

President Faure Gnassingbe

Lome, Togo | AFP | After six months of political crisis, a dialogue between Togo’s government and the opposition opening on Monday is seen by many as the last chance to resolve a bitter dispute over the rule of embattled President Faure Gnassingbe.

But the talks have raised a welter of emotions in this tiny west African country, ranging from hope to incredulity.

“It’s a ‘last chance’ dialogue. It is in the interests of both the opposition and the government to do everything to put an end to this unstable situation,” shopkeeper Joel Afandjigan told AFP.

“Each side must calm down.”

The decision to come to the negotiating table follows five months of massive public protest against Gnassingbe, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of west Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS.

Almost every week, there have been huge marches through the streets demanding that he resign and to limit the presidential term to two mandates.

– ‘We’re tired’ –

But Edoh Klavissou, who drives a motorbike taxi, says he’s not expecting anything to result from the talks with Gnassingbe’s ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR).

“UNIR will just take the opposition for a ride again. They will talk and sign another agreement which won’t be respected by the government. It’s the same thing all over again and we’re tired of it. We have talked too much in this country.”

On social media, many sceptical voices are speaking out against holding “an umpteenth dialogue” in Togo, which has been ruled for 50 years by the same family.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after taking over from his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who himself ruled Togo for 38 years after seizing power in a coup in 1967.

Back in 1992, Togo saw the introduction of a multiparty system with a new constitution, but since then there has been little sign of democratic progress despite repeated attempts at dialogue.

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