The president is not talking and the tension rises

Once again some volunteers left, now 4 at the same time, but there were very good friends
among them and I will have too see, how much time it will take to close the gap at least a little
bit!

The president should have anounced his decision about the question whether or not he will
return to the former constituion for some time now, but all announced dates seem to be a farce.
It depends on his decision, whether or not the African Union and their supporting states (USA, EU and many more)
will raise sanctions against Togo. The members of the council already said that it looks good,
but since he is keeping his decision off the public longer and longer I do not know what to believe!
We will see. (I am becoming more and more african 🙂 )

3-4 Deaths, Party with soldiers, Metal under the open sky and 4 hours of Church

Demonstrationen und Tränengas

On thursday a oppositional party called for a “Peace March”, which was unfortunately
dispersed pretty quick by tears gas granades of the military. Due to a lack of communication another
oppositional party called for another “Peace March” on friday. This time about 3 to 4 people died!

The delegates of the westafrican states were about to come to Lomé for a conference
with Faure Gnassningbé, but he wanted to hold the conference in Kara, near his city of birth
and at the same time a bastion of loyal soldiers. The delegates refused, as well as Faure turned down
an invitation to Niger. The call for a strike is out again for today.
Somebody from the government is now supposed to hold a speech before the security council of
the United Nations in Munich.

Since 5 other volunteers are leaving soon, we had another farewell-party, but since the state
had ordered a 2 month period of mourning, and our bureau is almost directly opposite of the barracks
of Kpalimé, we had only the essentials at the bureau and continued in the rooftop bar 🙂 !
Directly at the beginning we still saw the barracks beeing reenforced by another troop transport.
For the rooftop bar we still moved a box and an amplifier there by moto – extra wide cargo transport :).
At the party we could of course play our music. Falk and I then still wanted to continue until sunrise and
still stayed, listening to Metal and drinking coke (half a liter for 50 Cent) all night long under the open
african sky – the only happens every once in a while or even once in a lifetime!
The next morning I still went to church at 7 am with Abalo and Dorothea.
It started with bibel studies. The faith is pretty strong here and nobody wants to be a bad christian!
Then there was the service itself.
That is pretty different over here, a lot like the pentacostal church. The minister is constantly screaming
pretty agressivly. It was fun anyway, since the Ewe translator directly next to him always tried to keep
up with him and sometimes the whole thing ended up as a role play game :). Most of the songs were
just overwhelming and whoever wanted to dance could do so, what a lot of people also did.
There was also a band playing with the drum, electronic guitar, a keyboard and two singers, but there
was also a choir with traditional drums! The end was at about 11:15. After another visit to a café
and 30 hours of uptime I finally crashed in my bed. What an interesting and exciting day (or even 2 🙂 ).

Faure

Special summit

The deputies of the Ecowas (Economical Organisation of West African States?)
are gathering for a special summit in Lomé on the 10th to talk about how to enforce
democracy. By now several states of the western world support the West African Union and
waiting for the outcome of their next steps. The reaction of the togolese people will also depend
on it – we await the outcome of this day!
The expected amnesty has been given today, but only today. Only in Lomé 1498 inmates
have been freed.

Radio France International, an internationale radiostation are beeing jammed
or the relais are shut off, since they “apparently support the opposition”.

Demonstrations have only been banned until the end of the 60 day election period.
The opposition is calling for peace marsh anyway.

Prison and new volunteers

The new volunteers have arrived, but they already had a taxi ride of about 300 kilometres
from Cotonou to Kpalimé. At least they arrived savely!

When a new ruler raises to power, sometimes they call out a general amnesty, so the
families of the inmates in Lomé gathered in front of the prison. The soldiers on watch
thought that it was a demonstration, so they shot at them killing eight people.

Slowly things are going back to normal, at least in Kpalimé.
The call for a strike, that had been sent out has been followed by some, but not many and
has only been called for monday and tuesday.

Tonight we still went into the rooftop bar and met Zota there, an artistic group of drummers
and dancers, with whom some volunteers also have a lot of contact.
We still sang happy birthday in German, English, French, Éwé and Spanish
and taked (unvoluntarily) about German soccer! When we left at about
1 am, Constantin, Julika and Andrea had seen a fire and the people responsible were not
far off – maybe they were imitators of what that already taken place or maybe even the same
people…

Strikes and an Amendment

Ok, a little bit has changed down here, as you might have noticed yourself in the news:

A lot of students did not go to university on Monday, but reacted on the taking over of
power with a strike.

There has also been a big demonstration in Lomé, where they used gas. From tomorrow
on, strikes are forbidden by presidential order!(Lomé is know as a oppositional center).

The borders are open again. The former leader of the parliament, who had been kept
outside the country up to now, could come back.

Faure Gnassingbé, the oldest son of Eyadéma and former minister of communcations changed
the constitution on sunday, so that after the death of the president, the leader of the
parliament becomes the new President for the rest of the legislative period – on monday he
got elected as the leader of the parliament and a little later as the president.

Before the amendment, the article 65 of the constitution said, that the leader of the
parliament becomes the leader of the state for 60 days, after which there has to be an
election for the new president.

The take over has been criticized by many, also african, leaders – the french mobilized
their troops, in case that they have to protect their countrymen.

Her in KpalimĂ© hand outs are beeing spread, calling for a strike – the possibility, that
this becomes reality, is seen as little by the locals.

The president of our organisation (Horace) is still in Lomé, the fetch the 2 new voluteers,
who might still be in Benin.

We will see what happens. We are calm, but on guard.

The dictators death and his son as the new dictator.

The togoian dictator “GnassingbĂ© EyadĂ©ma” is dead!

The dictator is dead, long live the dictator…

I am still doing fine, but here is what happened.
He was the ditator that was the longest in office (38 years) and slowed down
the developpement of his country severely. He was the 8th richest man in the world.
On of his sons took over the power and was inaugurated by the military
just hours after the death was proclaimed. Up to then, the prime minister was
according to the “democratic Constitution”
officially the highest official of the nation.
Eyadéma had been brought out of the country due to urgent treatment and died
in the morning on saturday, the 5th february 2005. Since the official announcement
all either ground, air or naval travel in and out of the country had been halted
until further notice. It seems to be a calm change of power, but nothing is for
shure, yet.
We are registered at the german embassy and will be informed and evacuted if there
ist the need for it.

Throughout the evening the rumor spread that the president was no more and I saw
people dance as they did not since their childhood.
The local radio had nothing on his death and did not even mention it. Radio from
Lomé (the capital) was too difficult to get.
The television only had a stand-by picture and played christian music. (Every once
in a while the tape was rewound or ripped apart – the sound could have been both 🙂 .)
It ws only interupted by the news every hour, but there they also only played the
announcement of the prime minister. Since television is censored in this state (or
at least it was), we (some other volunteers, Abalo (an african) and I) went to
a lokal bar where they have satellite television (TV5).
Once arrived, we noticed that soccer was on! After another 10 minutes and 3 minutes
overtime plus some commercials finally the news where on. It was first about some
protests in France. The death of “our” dictator was only a short 10 second
notice, but apparently not all the visiters of the bars had already heard it.
They started to celebrated with Coke and beer as with champaign but stopped after
a while, since it is still not secure to show your opinion about the dictator’s
family in public and one does not know the outcome of this.
Nobody on the street celebrated too much, but some chanted quietly. Everywhere
things where beeing brought into savety, since nobody knows if now some people are
feeling a little less “restrained”
When we still went into the “la Case” to see the 10pm news, the highest
general was still holding a speech, saying that the military fores will keep the
people quiet. (Also another reasing to take bribes on the route to Lomé to
“continue the ride” – three years ago the price was at about
500 CFA (1 Buck), by now there are no more 500 bills, the next one is a thousand.
There are 3 posts on the way to Lomé.) After that we still saw the pledge
of allegiance to the dictator’s son and by now I am writing all that down. We will
see more tomorrow…

History:

“His excellence GnassingbĂ© EyadĂ©ma” came into power
in 1967 by a military uprising against the first democratic government after the
independence from France on the 27th of april 1960
The lack of the government to find work for 600 former soldiers of the French army
resulted in a coup d’Ă©tat on january 13th, 1963 in which EyadĂ©ma took part.
Olypio was murdered and Nicolas Grunitzky took over the presidency.
On january 13th, 1967 Grunitzky was relieved from his post without bloodshed,
parliament and parties were abolished and a military government was proclaimed, that
was with minory changes in effect until now.

In july 2003 Eyadéma was reelected for a third time after he had just made
it possible through an amendment of the constitution.

I am still doing fine, but I don’t know whether I have to go or if the situation
will be stable.

Crazy ministers, the biggest waterfall in Togo and drunk guards

Tina left after a total time of 6 months now. Somehow it is strange. She arrived a week
after me, now there are only Peter, Constantin and I who passed 6 months here. The others
are all at least one month short. When we brought her to the airport (Horace and I,
I still had to extend my visa, so I was in Lomé anyway) everything took a little
longer, but the check in did not cause any problems (even the Djembe made out of tropical wood).
When she was taking off, Horace and I still had to pick up the luggage of a new volunteer
which had not arrived in time. After we left the airport at around 11 pm we still had to pass the guard,
who seemed to like drinking a lot. He only woke up after we blew the horn several times
and tried to pull the ticket through the display for about 5 minutes. Unfortunately Horace
already said : “Don’t worry, it’s 500 CFA” before I had my camera out.

This weekend we went to the biggest waterfall in Togo. I organised the trip together
with a friend of mine who tries to establish sustainable tourism there (he has his own
NGO). It was interesting, but I had already seen some places like it.

The theatre festival seems to be off for this year. We tried to get authorisations
from several ministries and responsibles. We also got some from the ministry of culture,
and the ministry of technical education. We also had it from the department of public education,
but the minister vetoed it. We sent in a letter to ask of him to think it over, but
that only seemed to upset him. So he just held a public speech that the department in
Atakpamé seems to have too much power and is granting too many requests, so
from now on no NGO in this region (maybe even in all of Togo) will be able to do projects
in schools anymore – so our theatre project is also off, after a planning of 11 months and
a cost of 300.000 CFA (670 bucks).

Blind, Voodoofestival, Filmfestival and coup d’État

Last Friday I visited one of the seeing disabled from the blind center at home.
It was interesting to talk with him and we also visited a blind, old couple. They
both cannot work and have been supported by the blind center so far, but that is
soon going to be cut down and they do not know about their future, since it is
also quite difficult for their neighbours to also support them if even getting water
from the well to drink or wash is an act. When they were at church some time ago
some people even stole their food and coal. It is just so unjust!

On sunday I wanted to visit the voodoo festival with Michael, since we had missed
the small one in Aneho, but since he is looking for another organisation right now
to do his civil service he had an appointment on monday morning, so I either had to
go all by myself or not at all. At the end of february I also still wanted to go
to a film festival in Burkina Faso, but I noticed that I will be obligated to attend
my own theater festival at that time. So before I stay at home all the time I went alone…

… and that happened to be quite good! I went there on monday morning on a 5 hours
ride. On the way I also saw a truck who’s back axis had come off in the middle of the
street and some people standing around with sad faces. I could not see the whole desaster, but there might have been some dead, because
a lot of people always ride in the back illegally.

I arrived at around noon and looked for a place to stay.
The festival is the biggest of it’s kind in Benin since Voodoo has been declared
a religion by the state. When I went to the festival at around 2 pm some of it
was already over (I still got a guide later on), but there were still some dances and
later the “Returned” – completely costumed they were supposed to represent
the relatives from the other side. They danced, scared the people and spooked around
at midnight, supposingly killing everyone they saw.

The dancing was at the beach at the beginning, where there is also a UNESCO monument
mourning all the slaves that have been shipped to America and the Carribeans from all over
westafrica. It is called the “point of no return”. The street leading there
is called “Route des Esclaves” – slave street and is about 4 kilometres long.
I went there on foot together with my guide and also passed by the former slave market
on the way back. There are also several monuments and images on the walls, but they are
also starting to build a hotel there!

On the way to the beach I also noticed that an international movie festival was
taking place at the same time that was organized by the french – benin NGO “Quintessence”
and was already taking place for the third time. This was the first year though, that all
shows were for free :).
It had already started on the 7th and went until the 11th (I arrived on the 10th).
The first night I went to watch some of the movies right after the voodoofestival.
There were actually real theatre seats in straw huts (!) and what about bats passing
in front of the screen every once in a while :). I went to bed at around 11pm.
About an hour later I heard the “Returned” pass around the houses.
They were not really spooky, but the inhabitants tried to send them away anyway.

It were for the most part african movies, documentaries or movies telling the stories
of refugees, local musicians or just the population. They were pretty interesting and sometimes
even more exciting than Hollywood movies – and that as documentaries!
I also bought two of the movies, they exist for about 4 days now :).
By that I also got to know one of the executives who finally also offered my a place
to stay for the second night. So I could also follow the closing ceremony and see
the winning movie at the end and there was also free supper :).
The next morning I still went to the sacred forest, since Ouidah is the major voodoo
center in Benin. Only at the evening of the second day I noticed that there is a
time difference between Benin and Togo – althought it is only a 100 kilometres to
the east! The festival had 30.000 visitors altogether.

During the festival I also got to know a musician from Benin who is trying to
start a R’n’B revolution, since it is practically unknown over there. Unfortunately he
does not have the means to record an album professionally, though. It was funny to
put on his music (he has two songs recorded so far) in the entrance hall of the festival
and see the people react to it (“Who’s singing that?”), mostly positive :).

As I figured out later, I had to wait for my sleeping place, since he was not only
one of the executives, but also organizing the afterparty and had to stay there until the end.
That was at about 4:30 in the morning, until which I had to sleep in a bus.
I had to leave again for the border at 8 am to leave the country before my visa expired.
On the border they had only visa for 48 hours for 10.000 CFA (22 bucks).
After 47 hours I was back. During this time I had experienced enough and spent enough
money to go back to Togo!

Today (thursday, january 13th) is the day of taking power of Eyadema.
Because there was a big parade not only of the military, but even of elementary schools,
wide parts of Lomé were blocked when I came back. It was a long detour!
Today there was also a parade in Kpalimé. The part I got to see mostly
consisted of elementary schools that all marched in military formation and celebrated
Eyadema for “bringing peace” – it’s a dictatorical state!

Movie night and Harmattan

And once again we had a movie night This time we had bought 3 films in Lomé.
We had invited several others to watch with us, but in the end it were just Falk, Michael
and me. This time we also had the big stereo from Campagne and it was quite a nice sound!
We started at 7:30 pm and watched all three films. The last one didn’t work as well as
expected, but it was fun and at 2:30 am it was “already” over
und haben letztendlich alle drei Filme geguckt. Der Letzte lief zwar nicht ganz, aber
es war auf jeden Fall lustig und um 2:30 dann auch “schon wieder” vorbei.

By now we are in the middle of the Harmattan. That means, that the temperature
during daytime is at about 20 degrees Celsius, that it is pretty windy all the time and
there ist constantly desert dust in the air which covers pretty much everything within
half a day. It is still supposed to last until the end of february, march /april is then
supposed to be the hottest month of the year.

At least we have Coke again and all the other beverages that had been missing since New Year’s.
There had been a similar case with cigarettes, that had not been produced for 2 months,
but now they are back (don’t worry, I am still a non-smoker !).