The dictators death and his son as the new dictator.

The togoian dictator “Gnassingbé Eyadéma” 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 Gnassingbé Eyadéma” 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’état on january 13th, 1963 in which Eyadéma 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 !).

Lomé and Surprise party

Due to projekts and a motorcycle for Michael we went to Lomé yesterday.
We started at 5 am and it was actually cold, but with my new coat it worked.
When we arrived, we already whitnessed a car accident. Later on we still bought
burned DVDs for 5 € a piece: Kill Bill 2, Chronicles of Riddick and Last Samurai.
They are supposed to be in English with French subtitles, we will see about that! :=)

When we came back at 8 pm, my house was full of volunteers and campagne artists, since
another volunteer is leaving today and had already planned her farewell party, but most
had forgotten about it. This one was rather quiet and nice until some (drunk) Afrikans
could not stand it anymore and turned up the volume. I wanted to go to bed anyway. 🙂

It is a little strange, but for three days, there are no cokes, nor anything other than
beer in Kpalimé and even Lomé, so probably all over Togo! I don’t drink beer
that often!

New Year and new House mates

The next morning we were told that there would still be a dinner for all the
volunteers (who were not currently travelling) and their hostfamilies in the evening.
We had salad, peas and fried bananas. It was quiet and finally a change!

Falk, Swaantje and I still wanted to watch a movie afterwards. First we watched
Kill Bill 1 ( on Falk’s Laptop). Then it got too late for Swaantje and Falk brought her back
home while I was getting some Cokes for the second movie, Blade II. While I was waiting in
the cue (the bars only seem to become crowded around this time of the year) I saw an
African with a dark coat and asked him for the price. He said that it was 7000 CFA (about
15$). I asked him where I could one of those. He said that his brother sent it to him
from Paris, but if I would give him the money, he would give it to me right off his back –
and that he did :). Now Blade II had even more style :). By the way, the black guy was
named “Bismarck”

Yesteraday I still got to know that the room next to mine will be inhabited by
two Africans who’s dad has a mission in Cameroon. They will stay for at least 6 months
and are still going to school. They are between 18 and 20. We’ll see if I feeling more
like in a family after their arrival.

X-mas and New Year’s Eve

Christmas was a little differnt here. It was a rather big party. A lot of people still
went to church, but they all went to parties afterwards. Silent night is a little rare around here :).
Campagne also had a Party, although it was mostly Bob Marley and Celine Dion playing – not quite my
type of music. Besides that, it was a party just like all the others before, nothing special. A little
disappointing.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I relaxed a little, but New Year’s Eve itself was quite nice!
Some still wanted to go to church, but they were a little late and ended up in the La Case just like us.
We stayed there until 11pm, and then went on to the rooftop bar, to see if there were any fireworks
in Togo. There were none. I rejoined the others a little bit later (but still before midnight).
Before I got here, I met a Togolese who told me, that there would be spontanious invitations,
so I should bring some nice clothes. So far I had never used my Tux, so I had a little fun showing it
off to the others :).

After midnight we still looked around, if there was any other possibility to dance, but there was only
one other bar where there was something going on, but the music was too loud (at least for me).
So Niklaus, Ursula and I went to another bar a little off, where a drumming group was supposed to
perform that night, but when we arrived, it was already over. We still had a nice chat anyway – a nice evening!

Aneho, the Rich and Voodoo

On Monday morning we finally left. Of course our bus to Lomé broke down
and so we had to wait for another hour. From Lomé it were still about 30 kilometres
to Aneho, but we need 6 hours to get from Kpalimé to Aneho. (Usually 3 hours).
That night we stayed at one of the most beautiful beaches of all of Togo (not only
based on our opinion). OK; there was a phosphate pipeline on the right and people
were taking a dump a little down the beach on the left, but it was still magnificent
with waves 3 metres high and water with 30 degrees. Somehow it did not really feel like
christmas 🙂
Aneho is one of resorts for millionars and party affiliates. One side consists completely
of luxury villas and since we had the phone number of one of the housekeepers we stayed there
for 1.500 a night (3 Bucks). We had complete luxury and even a decend matrace!
On tuesday we walked a little around the village, visited the oldest church in Togo
as well as the Benin frontier. The Voodoo festival, that we had actually come for,
had already taken place the tuesday before. Apparently we have to go to Benin on the 10 of
January to see the big one.;)
So we already returned on wednesday with a pizzastop on Lomé and picking
up visa for other volunteers. The visaemployee was pretty pissed, but at least we could
relax that night in the La Case!:)

Since today is christmas Campagne is going to have a Party until dawn, not really
anything in the family and stuff. Maybe that will come on the 25 th – we will see.

Volleyball, Folklore and Peace corps

On saturday morning my Volleyball club had his “end of the year party”.
Therefore the area had to be cleaned and prepared. That meant cutting the grass with machetes and
getting it off the concrete with little simple brushes. It was actually fun, as almost everything,
that you do with the right people. Then we still played a little. First we had mixed teams, beginners and
advaenced, but after some time they exchanged all the advanced for beginners – except for me. Then they finally
noticed that would probably not have that much fun to play with kids, 14 years old at the most, and exchanged me, too.
There you can see the preference of whites again. 🙁 We still got to play later on.
Finally we started with eating, drinking and the speeches. I also had to hold one, unprepared.
I kept it short. Thanks for letting me play – happy new year! After about 45 I had to leave
because I still wanted to go on a trip to the voodoo festival in Aneho with a friend (Michael).
Unfortunately he had Malaria, so we fixed the departure for monday morning since the festival is
supposed to be on tuesday.
So I still had time for the folklore festival of another NGO, to which their volunteer (Jia) had invited me.
It was a festival for the sensibilisation about AIDS. There were also soome pretty funny plays,
e.g. a dildo demonstration or actors playing an intercourse scene! You did not have to understand
a lot of Ewe to have fun watching it :).
With Jia and her friend, who was around at that time and is working for Peacecorps (an american exchange
organisation, that is sening out volunteers for 2 years) I still went into the Crémerie
to get some ice cream (with Spaghetti and Crêpes). Afterwards Mathew (her friend)
and I still went into the internetcafé.

This morning I got up at 11:30 (hey – it’s a sunday) and already had an invitation for
lunch at 12:30. I spent it again with Jia and Mathew in the Crémerie.
Afterwards we accompanied Mathew to the bus, since he had to get back to his village.
On the way back we went into another bar together with Gregory (an new volunteer at Campagne).
Then we had supper and did not really care for going into another bar that night – La Case. 🙂

Bondparty and Millions

Since I am planning on going on a trip for a few days, I had to withdraw some money
from the bank, but it was christmas season and and a lot of people also got direct money transfers.
Most of the Togoians are very bad in calculus and the customer in front of me had just received
2000 € – 1.352.272 CFA, which he had to count (the biggest bills are 10.000)! I had to wait for
about 45 minutes.

We’ve also got a cigarette brand around here which is called Bond and had a promotion
party last night. Of course there were several prices to win and after I had been
dancing for only 20 seconds, I already had another watch around my wrist. I’ve only
got to change the battery now :).
They also had a real DJ, so the party was quite nice. Most of the others here have
no experience in mixing.
I also met two French who are travelling from village to village to work there and teach
them new agricultural methods. Country live is a little different here and so one
of them has already eaten cat (it is difficult to refuse anything in the villages).
He reminded me of the lead singer of “System of a Down” :).
Bond also had several games for their prices: one’s objective was to grab your nose,
ears and stomach as quick as possible. One of my friends, Palino, also took part in it,
but he already had to leave after the first round. At the end there was still a beer
and baguette “destruction” contest, but I was already leaving at that time.
I had only come in the first place, because my drumming group had a performance that night
and they also asked me to take part in it. I was supposed to bring my Djembe and they
even gave me a costume 🙂 A really nice night!