Togolese Prelate Denounces Election Results, Makes “solemn, vibrant appeal” for Protest

The Archbishop Emeritus of Lome, Philippe Fanoko Kossi Kpodzro.

Following the announcement of the preliminary results of the February 22 presidential elections in the West African nation of Togo declaring the incumbent winner with a landslide, a Togolese Archbishop has called on citizens in Togo to reject the results, terming them a “tasteless joke.”

"I followed with great indignation the tasteless joke served to us by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in proclaiming the so-called results of the presidential election of Saturday, February 22, 2020,” the Archbishop Emeritus of Lome, Philippe Kpodzro has lamented in a viral audio message released Tuesday, February 25.

Togo’s national electoral commission (CENI) announced Monday, February 24 that President Faure Gnassingbe had won by 72 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, far ahead of the one in second place, former Prime Minister Messan Agbeyome Kodjo who managed to take 18 percent of the vote.

At the beginning of this month, Archbishop Kpodzro had, in a widely criticized move, endorsed the former Prime Minister on the occasion of consecrating Togo to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, symbolically handing the 65-year-old politician the country’s flag.

In the audio, the Togolese Archbishop disapprovingly highlights the results as announced by the electoral commission saying, “It gave as winner the outgoing Head of State, who was obviously vomited by the population, at more than 72 percent, and attributed to the single candidate of my dynamic, visibly supported by the majority of voters, only 18 percent of the votes cast.”

Consequently, the 89-year-old Prelate has called for a peaceful demonstration on Friday, February 28 “to claim victory” for his preferred candidate Agbéyomé Kodjo.

“I make a solemn and vibrant appeal to all Togolese to mobilize themselves to thwart this grotesque maneuver worthy of a long bygone era," the Archbishop says. 

The country’s Supreme Court is expected to announce the final results this week, with Mr. Kodjo calling on the Togolese people “to mobilize to show its disapproval of this election masquerade.”

At the height of the presidential campaigns in December 2019, the Archbishop emeritus had launched an initiative to solicit funds (US$6.8million to US$11.8million) dubbed “Archbishop Kpodzro Funds” to aid a single presidential candidate. 

The retired Prelate has accused the electoral body of stealing “the victory of the Togolese people,” consequently appealing to the international community “not to be an accomplice to the supporters of this electoral hold-up.

Instead, the Archbishop has appealed to the international community to "establish the truth from the ballot boxes of the Togolese people who have suffered all too much from the injustices of an iniquitous regime."

In the 8-minute audio obtained by ACI Africa, Archbishop Kpodzro pleads with the Holy Father to "take up the Togolese case as Christ himself would do to bring about the triumph of justice, freedom and equity in accordance with the recommendations of the Holy Scriptures."

For the deliverance of the country without bloodshed by the end of February 2020, the Togolese Prelate urges “all the people of God to observe three days of fasting, prayer and praise to the Lord.”

He also condemns the military siege at his residence for 48 hours, a move he says is a clear indication of the regime’s admission of failure in the just held presidential elections.

If the country’s Supreme Court will confirm the results, 53-year old president Faure Gnassingbe will lead the West African country for a fourth term, thereby extending his 15-year-rule as well as his family’s leadership dynasty that began when his father seized power by a coup in 1967.

Political observers have predicted possible protests from the opposition supporters occasioned by claims of election fraud.

Others have also questioned the credibility of the elections, given that a majority of election observers among them the Catholic Church in the country were denied accreditation.

The February 22 Togo Presidential election attracted more than 76 percent of the 3.6 million registered voters, compared to the 61 percent turnout that was recorded in the 2015 poll.

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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
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