The Story of Gnassingbe Eyadema, the ‘Evil’ Dictator Whose Family Ruled Togo for 50 Years

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The Story of Gnassingbe Eyadema, the 'Evil' Dictator Whose Family Ruled Togo for 50 Years

It was Sunday Adelaja in his book, The Mountain of Ignorance who said: “The great and the mighty that use their assets and power to subjugate people are demonstrating oppression.”

Many years down the line, it is still the same old story of a few evil men using the resources at their disposal to thwart the will of the people in Africa. For how long will men of goodwill continue to watch silently while a few powerful lot trample on the masses with reckless abandon? When will African presidents close the doors of greediness and allow the will of the people prevail? As hundreds of thousands of Togolese people – men, women, teenage boys and girls – continue to protest violently over the 50-year brutish rule of the Gnassingbe dynasty, my heart bleeds for the country.

More than 20 people have so far died since the protest for the President’s resignation started some weeks ago, with the opposition also asking for a constitutional amendment to limit Presidential terms. Just three days ago, people were left in tears after a 10-year-old boy was killed by security operatives during a protest in Lomé with many others seriously injured.

Spurred by a desperate bid to cling on to power like his late father, President Faure Gnassingbe (who has been in power since 2005), son of the late dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema unleashed the army and police on the people.

Security operatives teargassed, clubbed, headbutted, assaulted and brutalized the people all in a bid to retain Faure in power. Not done, the President cut off internet and social networking access to stop people from reporting the unrest in the country. He also forced foreign journalists out of the country.

With all these calculated moves to mute the people, however, the political imbroglio became a confrontation too many for the masses to stomach as they retaliated in a most dangerous way by turning on soldiers in the streets. In fact, the internet was awash with photos of an angry Togolese woman dragging a soldier on the floor 2 weeks ago like a mere goat to the slaughter house after soldiers had reportedly killed seven protesters. His gun was taken away from him as he hopelessly begged for his life.

The history of the Gnassingbe family and its tasteless rule that spanned half a century is a disaster that stunted the growth of the region leaving 72% of Togo’s rural population below the poverty line (on less than 2U$/day),

making it one of the world’s poorest countries in the world, according to a World Bank report. With a population of just over 6million, many had thought that Togo would evolve as a leading industrial nation due to the abundance of natural resources at the country’s disposal.

The history of Togo is littered with chapters of chapters of deep frustration fueled by the dictatorial and greedy instinct of one man whose thirst for power saw him massacre hundreds of his political rivals. Gnassingbe Eyadema, father of Faure Gnassingbe (the incumbent President of Togo) was among the military men who led the first military coup in West Africa that killed President Sylvanus Olympio in 1963. Shortly after that in 1967, he led another coup as a Colonel forcefully removing President Nicolas Grunitzky to install himself as the President, a position he held for 38 awful years before his sudden demise in 2005 onboard a plane 250 km south of Tunis,

Tunisia. During his 38-year reign, Eyadema plundered the wealth and resources of his people and was reported to be worth millions of dollars. After pocketing the military, he used the Togolese army to commit heinous crimes against the civilian population and perceived political enemies. One of such case is what happened on the 30th of January 1993, when elements of the military went on an 8-hour rampage throughout Lomé, firing indiscriminately and killing at least 12 people.

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