, 23 April, 2020 / 6:07 AM
Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Togo (CET) have, in a collective statement, lamented the “brutality and violence” on the part of government security agencies in the arrest of the opposition leader, Agbéyomé Kodjo and demanded he be set free “immediately.”
“The Episcopal Conference of Togo has learnt with dismay news of the arrest at his residence of Mr. Kodjo Agbeyome, on Tuesday, April 21, in circumstances of brutality and violence perpetrated by the Defense and Security Forces, who forcefully broke into his home by destroying the gate,” the Bishops stated in their collectively signed letter seen by ACI Africa.
They added, “We invite the judicial authorities to release Mr. Gabriel Kodjo Agbeyome immediately.”
In the letter, the Bishops went on to condemn the recurrence of violence, which “our authorities demonstrate in the management of a situation which is above all, political.”
Togolese security forces on Tuesday raided the home of opposition leader Kodjo over accusations of threatening state security, one of his lawyers has been quoted as saying.
"Mr. Kodjo was forcibly arrested today. The security forces broke down his gate and front door before arresting him and taking him away," Claver N'dry said.
Mr Kodjo who was endorsed by the Archbishop emeritus of Lomé, Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro in Presidential elections in February, was arrested for ignoring a police summons for a third time.
Kodjo's lawyers said their client was unable to go to court because of bad health.
The 65-year-old former Prime Minister came second in the February 22 elections that saw the incumbent, Faure Gnassingbe, remain the President of the West African country.
Lomé prosecutors stripped Kodjo of parliamentary immunity in mid-March after he declared himself Togo's legitimate president and called on the armed forces to rise up against the Gnassingbe government.
In their April 21 collective statement, the Bishops advocated for a political solution to the conflict around the former Prime Minister saying,“We remain convinced that in the face of this crisis following the proclamation of the results of the presidential election of 22 February 2020, the preferred option remains that of seeking a political solution which does not lead to further violence, but which respects the fundamental rights of each person.”
They added, “Every citizen has the right and duty to express his disapproval of injustice and oppression.”
“Therefore, physical violence and other inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on citizens on this occasion is a denial of their rights and freedoms,” the Bishops stated and continued in reference to acts of violence against the opposition leader, “Once again, the Bishops' Conference denounces and condemns them, and calls on the perpetrators to come to their senses.”
The Togolese Prelates also deplore the fact that the “Archbishop of Lomé, Monsignor Nicodème Barrigah-Benissan, as well as the Archbishop Emeritus of Lomé, Monsignor Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah, were not authorized to come to the assistance of Monsignor Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro, who had asked for their help.”
Mr Kodjo and the Archbishop emeritus Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro have been targets of the current Togolese regime for rejecting the results of the presidential elections and calling on the population to protest.
“We call on all to keep calm, in order to spare our country from further suffering,” the Togolese Bishops concluded in their collective statement.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa