Togo’s President Gnassigbe Eyadema took power 37 years ago in a coup and is now Africa’s longest “serving” dictator. Despite his rather unsavoury reputation the EU continued to provide him with aid until 1993 when hundreds of people were killed in what is bizarrely described by Voice of America as “election violence”.
At that point the EU broke off diplomatic relations and suspended aid, vowing not to renew either until free and fair elections are held in the country. They have not been held. But, as the BBC World Service describes in its own inimitable way:
“Last Monday, EU officials said they had noted initial moves toward democratic and human rights reforms and would support humanitarian and human rights projects.”No doubt President Eyadema was feeling some shortage in his own exchequer.
Yesterday was the happy day on which diplomatic relations were to be renewed and aid resumed. In celebration thousands marched through in a good-humoured way, we are told, through the capital, Lome. When they reached the presidential palace they all tried to push in with the inevitable result. Thirteen people have been declared killed and about fifty injured but it is unlikely that the toll will not rise.
The question does arise why these people were marching joyfully and why did they try to push in to the palace yard. According to the BBC again:
Government spokesman Pitang Tchalla said organisers of the celebration "underestimated the enthusiasm of participants who turned out in unexpected large numbers for today's event, meant to express thanks to the European Union and support for President Eyadema."This seems completely bizarre. One can only suppose that there had been some promise of food for the marchers, as it is unlikely that the average citizen of Togo, ruled by President Eyadema, gets such an enormous amount of it. One can further suppose that there was an assumption that the aid will appear immediately in the palace yard and be distributed. Did the EU officials bother to find out what sort of arrangements had been made?