Catholic priest and chaplain of the Association of Catholic Leaders of Togo, Father Pierre Marie Chanel Affognon, has tongue-lashed the country’s political leaders for ignoring the legitimate demands made by the Togolese people for democracy.
“On several instances, the people of Togo, of whom you are sons and daughters, have clearly demonstrated their choice of democracy as a paradigm for the political governance of the land of their ancestors. Unfortunately, the basic democratic exigencies they are calling for have been ignored by you, the political leaders,” said Affognon in an open letter.
Affognon has held the chaplain position since 2015 when the Catholic Church in Togo decided to create it to provide spiritual direction for the elites of the country belonging to the Catholic Church.
About 30 percent of the Togolese population are Catholic, and it makes up the largest single religious group in the country.
Since August 2017, opposition parties have been holding street demonstrations, calling for a return to the 1992 constitution which limited presidential mandates, but which were overturned ten years later.
The Catholic bishops of Togo have supported the re-introduction of term limits and warned that political conflict could take on religious and tribal overtones, in a country that is 30 percent Christian, 20 percent Muslim, and 50 percent of the population practice indigenous religions.
The tribal politics in the country are also influenced by its colonial history.
In his open letter, Affognon said the political class has answered the people’s demand for democracy with “several deaths, broken families, people who have simply disappeared, material destruction, exiles, arbitrary arrests, torture and imprisonment.”
The priest said Togo’s distant and recent past has remained that of suffering and lashed out at political leaders who claim to work for the peace and stability of the nation, yet have failed to concretely address the causes of unending misery.
“The situation is dire, and the dignity of our valiant people requires that you take concrete acts that promote life and not an increase in the political culture of death,” wrote Affognon.
“We require of you a new vision, a renewed political mentality that lays emphasis on republican values and a new engagement that draws from the bank of democracy and the principles of good governance for the integral development of our nation,” he continued.
“In essence, the socio-political crisis in our country challenges each one of you to definitively sacrifice your personal, ethnic, clannish, and partisan interests which some observers have qualified as ‘egoistic’ in order to enhance the common good which in essence is the higher good of the nation,” Affognon said.
The priest called on political leaders to perform “acts of patriotism” to clean up their tarnished image in the eyes of the people.
“You are capable of doing that,” he said. “Don’t wait for anyone to rebuild our country and do not think that other nations will love Togo and the people of Togo more than you.”
“I would like to conclude by thanking you sincerely for your ongoing and future efforts. We pray for you and we support you in your good initiatives for a new, more democratic Togo, committed to the advent of a true rule of law, focused on good governance and the search for the well-being of all Togolese citizens.” He concluded.
By Olatimehin Ololade