Wednesday, 12 February 2020

INT’L DIALOGUE: Faure Gnassingbe, a president for life?

President Faure Gnassingbe. Photo: Culled from the internet

Saying it succinctly without any malice or whatsoever attached, he who is really pressed to empty the contents of their bladder could do so by urinating to easily plot the coordinates of the West African state’s borders at a go. Togo, per its land size, is one of the smallest countries in Africa. 

If it would not be considered wild-dreaming, Togo’s populace could be counted within a split of a second by one of those marvelous Chinese drones that it [China] uses to warn its citizens who loiter about in town without nose masks in the midst of the deadly Coronavirus. Indeed, Togo’s population of a little over eight [8] million is but a handful. 

Nonetheless, the smallness of everything Togo cannot be said of the plethora of issues within the country which shares boundaries with Ghana and Benin.

“Faure Gnassingbe seized power in 2005 by a coup following his father’s death. Thanks to the army that maintained his father in power for 38 years,” rants Farida Bemba Nabourema, “in the aftermath of that coup, he held rushed presidential elections and over 500 Togolese citizens were massacred in the process. His ascension to power was not democratic and so has been his ruling of Togo.”

Ms Bemba Nabourema, the Spokesperson for the Faure Must Go movement, in a mail correspondence with International Dialogue sounded much worried. 

“Under Faure Gnassingbe’s regime, laws have been enacted to ban protests, limit freedom of the press and speech. Multiple media houses have been shut down, journalists have been persecuted, arrested and tortured and numerous citizens including children as young as nine [9] have been summarily executed during protests. This situation has caused thousands of Togolese to flee their country and live in exile like myself,” she said.

Getting a proper definition or description for Faure Gnassingbe’s rule/regime is one difficult question political commentators and students of international politics could ever face. Is Mr. Gnassingbe practicing democracy or monarchy? If we are to go by the former as we are made to believe then why his obvious attempt to cling on to power as tightly as a baby would its mother’s breast? 

Since the ascension of Mr. Gnassingbe to the throne of presidency, a series of protests by the opposition political parties have rocked his seat. But with the military’s unwavering support on his side – as alluded to by Bemba Nabourema,  he has survived all attempts to end the over fifty years rule by the Gnassingbe family. Yes! Welcome to Africa where often politics becomes a do-or-die affair.

Faure Gnassingbe has perfected his craft so well that he could not have skipped or missed adopting the bully-boy tactics of his late father. 

Somewhere in May 2019, Togo’s parliament accepted into being a constitutional amendment that gives the president two five-year terms. 

The amendment means that Faure Gnassingbe is very much eligible to stand for reelection in the country’s polls slated for February 22, 2020. But, wait! That’s not all. Faure Gnassingbe could as well stand for the 2025 elections and rule till 2030 when he wins the people’s mandate.

For Farida Bemba Nabourema, however, she believes that this constitutional change “is a mockery to the people of Togo who were one of the first to vote for terms limit on the African continent in 1992.” 

The young woman in exile says, Faure Gnassingbe does not plan on ruling Togo till 2030. That, rather, he wants to be president for a lifetime like his father. And if he manages to stay till 2030, he will find a way to modify the constitution just like his father did in 2002 and rule till he dies.

Writing under the headline “Togo changes law to let president stand for two more terms” on May 9, 2019, Aljazeera’s news report appeared to have cemented the fears of many who dread Faure Gnassingbe.

“Another change passed by the National Assembly guaranteed immunity for life to all former presidents, who the new constitutional terms said cannot be prosecuted, arrested, detained, or tried for acts committed during their presidential term,” the report said.

With a parliament that is fully controlled by members of Gnassingbe’s Union for the Republic party as they hold two-thirds of the seats in the house, do we really expect anything different than what we are seeing?

“Legislators also changed the rules for their own mandate, meaning they can now hold their seats for two terms of six years each. Before, they had a mandate of five years but with an unlimited number of terms,” wrote Aljazeera.

Faure Gnassingbe has the military and the country’s parliament among others on his side making his rule unquestionable. 

In the said February 22 presidential election, nevertheless, 53-year-old Gnassingbe will face it off in that contest of thumbs mainly with Jean-Pierre Fabre.

Mr. Fabre who leads the Alliance for Change [ANC] which is the main opposition party in the country has a huge task at hand. A task as enormous as uprooting the taproot of an iroko tree and Pierre Fabre perfectly knows he must not do so with a shovel. 

Will Jean Pierre Fabre be able to unseat the iroko tree of a man called Faure Gnassingbe? Or, are we faced with a difficult yet an easy question as George Bernard Shaw once said, “No question is so difficult to answer as that which the answer is obvious”?

Well, undoubtedly, Togo’s presidential polls has a lot of interesting tales at stake. For professional bettors and those whose conscience does not restrict them from betting, you may place a bet on the elections and boldly tell Aliko Dangote to watch out as you would whisk from him – the way the hawk does mother hen's offspring – his position of Africa’s richest. 

At this point, we can only wish the good people of Togo a peaceful election and urge the international community to be that interested in Gnassingbe's country. Here, Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo must be lauded for his recent mediation role when Togo’s opposition parties locked horns with the Faure Gnassingbe’s regime.

The African Union proper must be up to the task. It must not comment on the affairs of a member state only to return to comment on same in a decade’s time. 

The writers are Ghanaian journalists who have interest in the world’s politics with an unflinching eye mainly on what pertains in Africa. Views expressed here are solely theirs and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of this media organisation.
Twitter: @abisolo7 & @aniwaba

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

INT’L DIALOGUE: Libya’s war, can AU stand the world powers?

Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar. Photo: Sourced from online
 It was on Sunday, January 19, 2020, and the venue was in Berlin, Germany. There, they gathered. Leaders and diplomats had met and the agenda for the gathering was not far-fetched. The world’s superpowers had met two peeved strong men from war-ravaged North African state of Libya to unlock their ‘horns’ as they continuously fight for supremacy over who rules their country.

But, even before the Libya Summit could come off, it was as predictable as clockwork as it was impossible for the world powers to get the two factions sign a ceasefire deal. The [foreign] protagonists themselves involved in the war had attended that Berlin Summit holding on to their respective entrenched positions. There was no way these protagonists could convince each other let alone getting their candidates in Libya to halt the war.  

Writing an opinion piece on dubbed “Road to peace in Libya goes through Turkey”— a day before the Libya Summit, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ostensibly expressed anger aimed at crashing Haftar’s power grab. 

“Turkey fully supports Libya’s U.N-backed, legitimate government. Under the most recent security and military cooperation agreements, we pledged to protect the Libyan government from coup plotters. In this regard, we will train Libya’s security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security,” wrote Mr. Erdoğan. 

Considering the enormous support Khalifa Haftar enjoys from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, Russia, US and Saudi Arabia, calling the bluff of the Libya Summit of a no ceasefire deal was not anything too hard to do. He had before that Sunday meeting angrily left Moscow, in Russia, over yet another ceasefire deal without appending his signature to documents. 

Then in Sarraj’s camp are another group of supporters being Sudan, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Germany and Italy. Certainly, this is more than a complex war. A war that its protagonists would find it extremely hard to end it themselves. 

Just 10 days after the Libya Summit, the arms embargo that was placed on Libya is in tatters. 

“The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) deeply regrets the continued blatant violations of the arms embargo in Libya, even after the commitments made in this regard by concerned countries during the International Conference on Libya in Berlin,” says

We are, as well, told that numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters. 

For security analyst Adib Saani who heads the Jatikay Centre for Human Security and Peace Building, “It [peace talks] should go beyond the rhetoric. Concrete actions need to be put on the ground. These various actors need to talk among themselves. If it’s the oil they want which is quite obvious then they should find a way to divide the oil [zone] among themselves.” He spoke in an exclusive interview with the International Dialogue

Of a truth, the fire in Libya could be doused with the intervention of a neutral arbiter. Does the African Union [AU] not overly qualify for this role?  It does!

Nonetheless, you ask yourself that in all the back and forth where is the AU? The African Union since the toppling of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi till date has actually become a confused group of states than ever. Was there a unified front of the continent’s powerful states to intervene either diplomatically or militarily in America’s needless intervention in Libya? Is the AU doing so now in the Sarraj-Haftar war? No!

The AU is either clueless or perhaps unable to convince world powers that it has the credibility to resolve the crisis in Libya. 

This, when Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor  Botchwey recently met top government officials in Turkey, she tried covering up AU’s chronic shame. 

“I believe that the steps that Turkey is taking with Russia and others to bring peace to Libya is a step that I think it's in the right direction. However, may I also add that, I think, it's important in taking these steps also to involve the Continental Union, which is the African Union,” she said.

Really? Why does the AU still sit aloof waiting for Turkey or Russia to invite her to the peace process in Libya before it acts? 

Madam Ayorkor Botchwey like many African leaders, indeed, “think that the solution sometimes lie within [Africa],” as she said in Turkey, yet they forever prefer to be spoon-fed. What they forget or rather deliberately fail to realize is that the world has no time waiting for Africa.

In recent years, regional and sub-regional organizations have become more powerful and interested in matters affecting their regional or sub-regional bloc. The Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] became a pacesetter in resolving Gambian 2016/17 election debacle which would have been one of the bloodiest political conflicts of our time. Are these regional blocs useful than the AU? Perhaps, yes!

The African Union cannot justify its silence in the Libyan crisis. The Union has not shown enough leadership for the many souls perishing in the North Africa state. If the European Union among other reasons is concerned about Libya because that is the African migrants’ gateway to their territory, is the AU also not concerned that thousands of its labour force are dying on the Mediterranean? Must the AU be told that repeatedly failing the same examination of incompetence is but shameful? 

If the AU were a force to reckon with, it would have by now stood face-to-face with the protagonists in Libya’s war and levelled sanctions on them to retract its supply of weapons to the North African state. And, these let-alone powerful states would have quietly obliged such a command from the continental body. Rather, it is the opposite.

Africa’s leaders have failed Africans. They hardly value human lives. Saying the truth as it is or ought to be, thousands more of our compatriots will continue to perish in Libya since resolving of the conflict there is left in the hands of the same world powers that lied in toppling Muammar Gaddafi. Today, Libya— once a beautiful young woman with promising breasts— woefully wobbles on her feet. The falcon, indeed, cannot hear the falconer!

Is there an end in sight to Libya’s war? No. If for anything, the fire in the North African country could be doused temporarily. Remember, it is not that simple and easy for the protagonists to walk away from the dining table of Libya knowing that it is leading on the table of African countries with the highest volumes of oil reserves. Libya was Africa’s Europe and the Americas. It was rich and fertile soil for growth. 

We— the AU— looked on to its destruction. If you are an African reading this piece, please skip your food today so we join hands in mourning a lost jewel.

The writers, Solomon Annan and Solomon Mensah, are Ghanaian journalists who have interest in the world’s politics with an unflinching eye mainly on what pertains in Africa. Views expressed here are solely theirs and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of this media organisation.
Twitter: @abisolo7 & @aniwaba

Sunday, 26 January 2020

TALKING DRUM: What next after counting the dead?

The crash scene at Dompoase, Central Region. Photo: Culled from online

As the National Lottery Authority [NLA] announces its winning numbers, every single year, the National Road Safety Commission [NRSC] and other stakeholders in the transport industry as well announce numbers. The latter’s numbers are, however, not what could win anyone anything.

The NRSC’s numbers are actually numbers of deaths! Numbers that could cause a huge magnitude of pain than what those who lose to the NLA suffer. From the very onset of every New Year, they [NRSC] start counting 5, 10, 30, 100… and before you realize they had hit a crazy figure that you can’t believe that such figures/numbers represent human beings killed on our roads.

So, in 2019, only, Ghana as a country lost 2,284 persons to road crashes. 2018 was nothing different. We counted 2,020 deaths of humans on our roads. Actually, statistics from 1991 to 2018 indicates that 46,284 people lost their lives to road crashes. And if we were to fill the Accra Sports Stadium which has a 40, 000 seating capacity with these dead bodies, as many have put this in perspective, we would have the venue overflowing with a surplus of 6000 bodies. This is sickening. Isn’t it?

“The crash statistics in 2016 represent an increase of 15.6% and 6.77% in fatalities and serious injuries respectively but a reduction of 11.7% in crashes over the 2015 figures,” says But, even when they talk about reduction in the number of fatalities or whatever, the figures are still unimaginable.

The sad narrative appears it would not be different for the New Year, 2020, if we do not put proper measures in place. Already, the country was shocked to the marrow by the news of the road crash that killed some 35 persons and injured many others at Dompoase in the Central Region.

Eyewitnesses say, the crash which occurred on January 14 had a Takoradi-bound bus with registration number GR 5704-18 colliding with a Cape Coast-bound vehicle — GN 3780-10 — after the former allegedly tried overtaking the latter.

If you look at our country called Ghana, one thing immediately comes to mind. That, had it been a human being it would have for long been admitted at the psychiatric hospital. Ghana is totally mad! No apologies.

If you should type “road accidents in Ghana” into the search engine Google, the multitude of links that will pop up would get you fuming. Many of these crashes are caused by our own faults either directly or indirectly.

Most of our roads are not dualised and they are riddled with potholes. No functioning streetlights, majority of drivers only know their steering wheels and brakes and the police to ensure sanity extorts monies from these dangerous drivers. The list of our woes in the transport industry is endless.  

But, in a country where only the so-called brilliant could read overhyped professions [law and medicine] leaving the school dropouts to find solace in [commercial] driving, what do we expect? In a country where corruption is rife at the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority [DVLA], what do we expect? Were we not in this country when ace journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas went undercover at the DVLA and succeeded getting driving license for a mentally derailed man?

So, like the bird which goes to muddy the water and comes back to ask who did that, we continue to fool ourselves as Ghanaians. Hypocrisy is killing us. If hypocrisy were not killing us would we have expected the police not to take bribe from drivers when it is an open secret that recruitment into the Ghana Police Service is not only based on ‘Whom you know’ but how much one could pay?

Do we really expect the police wo/man on patrol duties to say no to being bribed when they themselves had to, first, bribe their way through police recruitment? They must recoup their ‘investments’ and the rippling effect is — partly — the carnages on our roads!

If I mean to continue ranting on the reasons Ghanaians are dying on our roads, I could go on without realizing I am tired. But, we must with the swiftness of a duiker propose solutions that will put a stop to these deaths. If you care to know, China in the midst of the dangerous coronavirus has given its architects and engineers the task to design and build a 1000 bed capacity hospital — to contain the disease in the Wuhan Province — within six [6] days. Yes, you heard me.

China is what one could call a country. There are plenty of people there thinking with their brains. A hospital to be built in six days? Back home, the architectural design alone would take us no less than a year as politicians will capitalize on that to tell Ghanaians why they should vote for them. I trust you have not forgotten about the parked ambulances?   


We must make driving an enviable profession. Driving must not be a reserve of school dropouts who would go commercial and carry our ‘cherished’ doctors and lawyers among others to their early graves. As it is done in Sweden and many other developed and civilized nations, one must reasonably suffer to gain their driving license. Drivers in such places equally value their licenses as they do their school certificates.

More so, even before we could get driving to be enviable profession, I propose we set up Lion Check Points on our roads. Here, our soldiers [the lions] must be deployed at check points on the roads especially on highways. I guess you are not telling me the police is doing that already? These soldiers of ours are not going to war anytime soon. We do not even have what it takes to go to war. In 2017 when the Ghana Army was to join their counterparts from Nigeria and Senegal on a mission to pressure Yahya Jammeh to step down, in Gambia, our men delayed for three solid days.

The ready Ghana Army poised for a possible war with the Gambian Armed Forces [GAMAF] had to rely on commercial airlines. Let us not worry ourselves getting these soldiers for regional/external operations. They must be given work to do here in Ghana.

At these check points, the soldiers arrest recalcitrant drivers and give them tasks that could get their energies drained. They could be made to climb a nearby tree and made to wipe-clean every single leaf on its branches or made to weed acres of bushes — either when arrested day or night — failure of which they [drivers] are given say 200 strong lashes. This must be streamed live on Facebook. 

Better still, we could set up Court On Wheels. This will have lawyers and judges in special vans who would drive to a Lion Check Point to arraign drivers on the spot. In a matter of one to three hours, a ruling is made. If these drivers deserve a prison term, they are driven — leaving behind their buses/vehicles with arrangement made to get passengers a new driver [if on a bus] — to appropriate prisons.   

Whereas we quickly work on dualising our roads, fixing potholes and making white elephant of streetlights work, we must make the effort to change the people’s current state of mind. A developing country like Ghana needs radical measures to streamline things.

After 10 years of Ghanaians experiencing these militaristic measures to safe roads, everybody — whether driver or passenger — will behave accordingly. Which driver would go beyond their speed limit or needlessly overtake another vehicle when they have it in mind that soldiers are dotted on the roads or they [drivers] could be instantly tried by a court on wheels?

Let us not come back here a year by this time to hear that over 2000 people lost their lives on our roads. The time for drastic action is now!

The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7. Views expressed here solely remain his and not that of his organisation.
Twitter: @Aniwaba