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What is the situation of women’s rights in Togo just before the Presidential elections of 2010?

Togo will hold its Presidential elections on 4 March 2010. Seven candidates are running, including one woman, Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, the first in the history of the country. In her campaign message, she commits herself to "create the favourable conditions for young men and women of [her] country to learn how to live together again, as one and the same people, driven by national pride.”

By Massan d’ALMEIDA

The Togolese people will go to the polls on 4 March 2010 for their next President. Seven candidates are running, including the outgoing President Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, as the candidate of the party that has been power for over 40 years, as well as a woman candidate.

General background on Togo

Bordering the Gulf of Guinea, Togo is a French-speaking country, covering a surface area of 56 790 km2. It is bordered on the west by Ghana (877 km), the east by Benin (644 km), the north by Burkina Faso (126 km) and to the south with a 50-km long coastal strip: the Gulf of Guinea. From north to south, Togo is 710 km long and up to 120 km wide. With a demographic growth rate estimated as 1.7 per year, it has approximately 5,155,000 inhabitants, with an average density of 61 people per km². Lomé, the political-economic capital on the coast, has the highest density, with a population of around 1 100 000 inhabitants. For almost a decade, the country has been experiencing a particularly dire and delicate crisis situation. In addition to heavy and structural constraints to the economy, there is the negative impact of a deep and long socio-political crisis stemming from the particularly difficult democratic transition.

The historical context

Togo, a former French colony, gained its independence on 27 April 1960. Since then, the country has been ruled by five Presidents:

  • Sylvanus Olympio, the father of independence and the first President of Togo, [1] from 1960 to 1963, the year of his assassination;

  • Dadjo Klébert, 1963

  • Nicolas Grunisky, 1963 to 1967, overthrown following a military coup;

  • Général Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 1967–2005, who died in power

  • Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, 2005–2010; who is running for re-election.

The current political context

From 1967 to 1993, Togo has been led by General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, first under a military regime, and then following the National Sovereign Conference of 1991, which favoured the advent of a multi-party civil regime (1993–2005). To date, Togo has had approximately 70 political parties classified into three large “families”:

  • the party in power, or the parliamentary majority;

  • the parliamentary opposition parties;

  • the extra-parliamentary political parties. [2]

Since 1992, Togo has experienced a troubled political life, marked by a painful transition to democracy and difficulty in accepting the alternance of power. This led to a rupture in international cooperation, which aimed to put pressure on the power in place to be more open to democracy. This pressure resulted in the undersigning of 22 commitments on 14 April 2004 by the Togolese Government following consultation with the European Union, with the aim of consolidating democracy, national reconciliation and social peace [3].

Long negotiations between the different political actors within the framework of an inter-Togolese dialogue, from 21 April to 6 July 2006, led to the signing of the Comprehensive Political Agreement (Accord politique global) and the organization of the anticipated legislative elections in 2007, from which three main parties in the Togolese Parliament emerged. Sitting in Togo’s Parliament were the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC, Union of Forces for Change, with 27 seats) and the Comité d’Action pour le Renouveau (CAR, Action Committee for Renewal, with four seats), in the opposite, and the winning party, Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, Rally of the Togolese People, with 50 out of 81 seats) [4]. Since 2007, these three parties have dominated as the main actors of Togolese political life. However, one must await the results of the Presidential elections to know the real weight of each of them, and of the parties of the other candidates in these elections, and to know how many Togolese are truly represented by each party beyond what they are actually stating, which cannot be known from the results of the legislative election due to the kind of voting system adopted — proportional representation from a list in accordance with the rule of the highest average.

Peace and transparent elections?This is indeed the deeply felt wish of the Togolese population. Efforts have been made to achieve this so that Togo would not relive the psychosis of the past right after the electoral processes. Already in 2007, during the anticipated legislative elections, there were strong mobilization efforts by Togolese civil society and the international community to ensure peaceful and non-violent elections. This time, again, there is a large mobilization to this end, although not as strong as it was in 2007. The population is somewhat reassured by the presence of numerous national and international observers and journalists, and the security mission of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The electoral process

It began on 21 August 2009, with the set-up of the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI, National Independent Electoral Commission). It consists of 19 members, including one woman, and brings together all political viewpoints and civil society organizations [2]. As a result of several negotiations under the aegis of the facilitator of the Inter-Togolese Dialogue, Blaise Campaoré, President of the Republic of Burkina Faso, the Presidential elections will be held on 4 March 2010, and under the one-round, single member constituency system. The electoral campaign that began on Tuesday 26 February 2010 will end on 2 March 2010. Seven candidates, including one woman, are therefore part of the electorate, each trying to convince the population to choose him/her.

What is the situation of women’s rights in Togo just before these elections?Togo has several organizations that promotion women’s rights, including around 20 working to promote the access of women to decision-making spheres, notably Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF)/Femmes, droit et développement en Afrique (FeDDAF Togo), the Groupe de réflexion et d’action (Group of Reflection and Community Action), Femme, Démocratie et Développement (GF2D, Women's Democracy and Development), the Conseil Consultatif des Femmes du Togo (CCOFT, Advisory Council of Women of Togo), the Réseau des Femmes Africaines Ministres et Parlementaires Togo (REFAMP, Network of African Women Ministers and Parliamentarians of Togo), the Association des Femmes Africaines pour la Recherche et le Développement Togo (AFARD, Association of African Women for Research and Development of Togo), Femmes de Demain (Women of Tomorrow) and Marche Mondiale des Femmes du Togo (World March of Women in Togo), among others.

They carry out several activities on the field to raise the population’s awareness of issues related to women’s rights, reproductive health, access of girls to education and political participation, to cite a few. The women’s organizations face many problems, especially financial, in carrying out their work. Because they have very insufficient resources to conduct activities, most of the organizations are small with low technical capacity to mobilize resources. In addition, the rupture of international cooperation with Togo for 15 years resulted in several donors ending their financing of Togolese civil society organizations. However, despite their limited resources, the defenders and organizers of women's rights in the country have succeeded in the following worthy activities:

  • the gradual social recognition of the law of succession of women in case of death of their spouse;

  • obligatory schooling until the age of 15 for boys and girls:

  • free primary school [5]

  • In 2006, during the Inter-Tologese Dialogue, the two women’s organizations representing civil society organizations were success in bringing together the political parties signatory to the Comprehensive Political Agreement, committing themselves in writing to “ to be open towards ensuring the fair representation of women in the electoral processes and in the socio-political life” [3].

  • a law was adopted against sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace (December 2006), and another authorizing abortion under certain conditions (in the case of rape, incest, if the life of the unborn child is threatened) [6];

  • trafficking of children (including young girls) was criminalized by a law passed by National Assembly in August 2005 [7];

  • For the first time in its history, in 2010, a women represents a political party for the Presidential elections — Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, candidate of the Convention démocratique des peuples africains (CDPA, Democratic Convention of African Peoples), which is one of the five signatory parties to the Comprehensive Political Agreement.

Several other activities are in progress, in particular:

  • legislative reform of the Code des personnes et de la famille (the National Family Code);

  • advocacy for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights [5].

During this electoral process, little passion and mobilization has been observed by women’s organizations with respect to the legislative elections of 2007. This is explained by several factors, including general indifference of the population with respect to voting and its results, and a laxity that borders on indifference. Like the rest of the population, women seem to be more concerned by the fear of post-electoral violence. However, why such indifference and such little mobilization to participate in the process and support the only women candidate who dares to run for the Highest Office in the country? AWID will likely return to this issue after the election in an attempt to understand it.

The only women candidate in the Presidential elections of 2010: Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson

Born on 26 December 1958 to a family of political activists, she fell in the cauldron of the political scene from a young age. “At three years old, I gave a brief speech to President Sylvanus Olympio“, she said, in a burst of laughter. Today, at 51 years old, Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo-Johnson, who will represent the CDPA during the 4 March elections, is the first women to run for the highest office of her country. This is a gamble in Togo, but it doesn’t matter. Kafui — which means “happiness” in Ewé — says she is serene. “Today is a memorable day in the history of our country, Togo. My party has just made a historical step”, she simply commented

It was in 1989 that she entered politics and became a founding member of CDPA. She became the Rapporteure générale of the Temporary Office of the National Sovereign Conference in August 1991, and gained the sympathy its President, Archbishop Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro, who was very adamant about protocol. Here she earned the nickname of “the President has asked me to tell you”, an expression that she often uses.

But make no mistake about it, being a diplomat, she also knows how to be firm: her firm hand at the time inspired another nickname, “Iron lady”. Nominated member of the High Council of the Republic, she then became Minister of Welfare, Human Rights and National Solidarity in 1991, for three short months. She serenely climbed her party’s ranks, where she is now National Secretary, after being responsible for women’s issues, and where she has the reputation of being poised and reflective. “She is jovial and never gets angry", assures one of her party colleagues of CDPA. And she has a sense of responsibility.”

But politics is not her only crusade. For a long time, Kafui has been active in civil society. She has been highly committed to protecting women’s rights, coordinating the Regional Office of the NGO WILDAF, and since 2001, has been a member of the Advisory Committee of the African Women’s Development Fund. She is passionate about the law and a teaching assistant at the University of Benin at Lomé, has accumulated diplomas in private law, comparative law and foreign law, obtained in Lomé and in Paris, and has focused on the rights of women and children and development issues, subjects on which she has written a great deal.

Workaholic, she still finds time for her two children. “I am an indulgent mother. One way, surely, to compensate for my absence.” Watching little television due to lack of time, and a practising Catholic, she is well-read on religion. [8]

In her campaign, she commits herself to “creating the favourable conditions for young women and men of our country to learn how to live together again as one and the same people, driven by national pride” [9]. Beyond her party, Kafui ADJAMAGBO-JOHNSON states that she is the candidate of all women, of all men and all those who aspire to be governed differently. In her opinion, Togo must exit from the crisis situation that had lasted too long in order to tackle the tasks of sustainable development. [1’]


The entire Togolese population hopes for a better future following the elections, even if the specter of violence continues to loom and there are rumours of violence, and also in spite of preparations to challenge whatever the results, by the losing candidates. Nevertheless, for the future of women’s rights, it is important to point out that all the candidates have included in their election campaigns the improvement of living conditions and the promotion of women’s rights. We hope that the candidate elected will back up his or her words in actions and create the necessary conditions for women’s access to a better life.


  1. Gayibor N.L. (2005), Histoire des Togolais de 1884 à 1960, Tome II, Lomé, Presses de l’UL

  2. Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) (2009),

  3. République Togolaise (2006), Dialogue intertogolais - Accord Politique Global (Comprehensive Political Agreement).

  4. Togo’s National Assembley,

  5. WiLDAF/FeDDAF Bureau sous-régional de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, Situation des femmes Togo,


  7. Massan d'ALMEIDA (2006), Qu'est-ce que le Trafic ou la Traite des Personnes? AWID Carrefour Vol.5 N°20

  8. Jeune Afrique,

  9. APA,


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