Togo is a little country in west africa that has first been a german and after WW2 and a seperation under french control. Since 1960 it is officially indipendent.
Officially, since 3 years later there was the first coup d'état by Gnassingbé
Eyadéma, who took total control with his second coup in 1967 and has been reigning as
a dicator since then.
When the people demanded free elections in 1990 and called for a strike, he also fullfilled these demands, but only because he was shure that he would win the elections by massive fraud. He also did this in the following elections and changed the constitution each time to make another legislative period for him possible, since the constitution was still that from 1960.
With changes like these he also assured that his son (Faure) could already become president by the age of 39, when Gnassingbé died by a heart stroke in february 2005.
He assumed power just 5 hours after his father had died by the pledge of allegiance from the military.
The population reacted with protests, which cost several lives, since the army was using live ammunition and not just tear gas as they were supposed to. After other loud protests and sanctions from the African Union he finally resigned to be able to be put up as a candidate for his party. Also the America and the European Union protested except for France, who had been supporting the dictatorship ever since Eyadéma took power.
The candidate for the opposition (or at least 6 out of the 8 opposition parties) was Akitani Bob,
a 70 year-old retired engineer. The "ever since" arch enemy of Eyadéma,
Gilchrist Olympio, son of the first president, which had been shot be Eyad&eaucte;ma,
could not candidate, since he had not been a resident of the country for at least 12 months.
Until the elections the most part of the country was quiet, only in Lomé there were 2-3 demonstrations a week with about 50.000 participants each(!). Right before the elections several new military patrols went around to intimidate the people.
The day of the election itself it was also getting hot around Kpalimé:
So far the population had mostly accepted the fraud and hoped for the dictators death - now his death had come after 38 years and his son (39 years old) could assume power for another 2 generations!
Many 20-year old accompanied the election comittees and forced them to sign the real election results which they refused at first. They were running around with 2-3 meter long sticks and went with them to the prefecture to also force the prefect to sign the results from the area, who happened to be protected by soldiers.Some of the demonstrators started to insult and throw things at the soldiers whereupon they fired back. Another 300 people went to a radio station to demolish it because a leader of a so called "neutral" party had said that every young person not voting for the RPT (the dictators party) was a fool. He had also been welcoming Faure on his electoral campaign earlier.
But also at the radio station soldiers had been waiting and shooting at the demonstrators. At the hospital the doctors would not even have shown up, if there had not also been some military injured!
The next morning the military set a curfew for everyone. How we figured out later, two soldiers had been killed during the night in a sidestreet.
Now we (the volunteers from our organization) started to move into the still to be completed orphanary of Campagne des Hommes which was about 6 km out of town. The next nights we always heard that in the villages on the route to Atakpamé (another bis city, about 250 kilometres north of Lomé) there had been soldiers killed every night and in reaction to that the military was rigerously firing at oppositionals.
In Kpalimé itself it stayed calm though. Until then it had been a thing between the military and the polpulation, but when cloaked affiliates of the RPT or even the military burned down the Goetheinstitut (German Cultural Center in Lomé), it also became dangerous for us. During the day the Germans were still accused of collaborating with the opposition and thereby the french were hated by the population and the germans by the government!
After organizing some jeeps we went over the ghanian border. Before I still called the German Embassy to ask if they could still organize VISA for us at the border which was usually not possible and what you had to go to Lomé for, where the heat was really on now!
But they didn't!
The first borderpost din't have a telefone but could accompany us to the interior of the country
where they had a telefone, but not the permission to grant VISA! For that we had to go to Ho,
which were another 80 kilometres. But our drivers refused to take us there since it was getting late
and one of them had already lost his pastis to the customs after attempted smuggling!
The nice immigrations officer still tried to find some other vehicles by going throught the different adjacent villages on his dirt bike, but he didn't succeed. So we went to our accomodation, the waterfall lodge, which was also led by Germans. The owner also came from Neumünster and her grandmother lived in the same street as me! :).
The next morning we were preparing to go to Ho but after we had been looking for a bus for one hour and loaded it for another two hours two officers from the immigrations department arrived and told us, that about 850 new refugees had arrived just a little down the border and so now every available man had been sent there and they did not have anyone left for us and since we could not go by ourselves, we had to stay until tuesday, another 3 days, since monday was the first of May! Until then we were illegal immigrants and could not leave a radius of 15 miles!
Horace still went back to Kpalimé. We spent the evening in another accomodation that the owner had organized. During the day we still had to stay at the Waterfall Lodge, but at night we would sleep there.
Before I had still been to the village chief with the owner to announce us officially and to ask for the next day if we could go to the neabry waterfalls for free, since they were the highest in Ghana (about 300 metres high and you usually had to pay a fee) - what a touristic escape!
We were still supposed to present oursevles to the council of elders (20 - 30 ppl) and suprisingly I was voted the spokesperson for the group :O. At the end there was the usualy alcohol that always goes along on these procedures!
In the evening there still came a delegation from the village and brought us coconuts, oranges, Bananas and Coke! We had expected the traditionale palmwine and also brought such as our present - and in the end we drank it ourselves! The human warmth and kindness of therse people is just undescribable! They also saw the possibility to revieve their relationship with the Germans through this, since they had been the first colonists and were still remebered in a good sense.
We spent the sunday at the waterfall where we found a thousand bats living there.
Some of the locals also hunted them and sold them at the market as food.
Monday was spent with making phone calls (me) and waiting (the others). The German Embassy would only treat us as tourists whenever we had the VISA!
On tuesday we finally got to Ho, but just Horace, who I still met at the borderpost since he had been
back to Kpalimé, the passports, two officers and me.
The officers had said: " 7 am sharp, but at 7:30 they were still in bed themselves. :) Horace arrived at about 8:30 with the car of CdH, his wive Rogate, his son Jaques and a new irish volunteer who had been waiting in Ghana until the borders openend. Then he came into the bureau of CdH and was immideatly taken back across the border by Horace :).
Horace also brought his family because they started spying on oppositionals and taking them out of their houses at night.
To get the VISA we first still had to exchange money, since they did not take any CFA. But since the exchange course at the bank was too low, we went to the black market (accompanied by an officer in uniform!) and traded 503.000 CFA into Cedis there - 8.550.000 Cedis! Plus the 1.500.000 Cedis savety for our trip I had been walking around with 10.000.000 - the highest bill was 20.000! :)
The irish took off again and was planning to maybe check in again in 6 or 7 weeks and we were
looking for another accomodation in Ho, since we still had to get to Ho and change our ticket. This took until
the next morning. We found the house of a pastor in Ho, picked up the group in Hohoe and went
to Accra with some of the volunteers the next day for the flight tickets.
This went without big problems for most of them.
I still took a weeks holiday and now I am back in Germany!