English Africa Service – Vatican City
“The Bishops’ Conference of Togo learned with dismay the arrest of Agbeyome Kodjo, at his home this Tuesday, 21 April, in circumstances of brutality and violence perpetrated by the Defence and Security Forces,” reads a statement signed by all of Togo’s Catholic Bishops.
Togo’s security agents forced their way into the house of the opposition leader by breaking through the entrance gate and smashing the house door.
Kodjo came second in the February 2020 elections
Leader of the opposition Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (Mouvement patriotique pour la Démocratie et le Développement - MPDD) came second in Togo’s disputed presidential election of 22 February. The incumbent, President Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who has been President of Togo since 2005 was declared winner for a fourth term. His father President Gnassingbé Eyadéma ruled Togo for 38 years.
Media sources in Togo said the opposition leader was arrested for failing to appear before the country’s intelligence and security police - ‘Service central de recherches et d’investigations criminelles de la gendarmerie.’
Agbeyome Kodjo’s immunity, as a former Prime Minister, was lifted by the country’s Parliament in March.
90-year-old Archbishop emeritus -a fierce presidential critic
Togo’s Bishops further condemned the fact that the Archbishop of Lomé, Nicodème Barrigah-Benissan together with his predecessor, the former Archbishop of Lomé, Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah were not allowed to attend to Lome’s other Archbishop emeritus, Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro. The latter was said to have been at the house of the opposition leader when the arrest took place. The 90-year-old Archbishop emeritus Kpodzro is a fierce critic of President Faure. In March, he was briefly placed under house arrest after calling for post-election protests.
Political tensions started in 2017
In their statement, the Togolese Bishops say the recurrence of violence perpetrated by the government’s security agents only worsens a political situation in deterioration since 2017. They have since called for a political solution, which respects the fundamental rights of citizens.
The government should exercise restraint
We “believe that every citizen has the right and duty to express his/her disapproval in the face of manifest injustice and oppression. The physical violence and other inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on citizens on this occasion is, therefore, a negation of their rights and freedoms. Once again, the Conference of Bishops denounces and condemns them, and calls on authorities to exercise restraint," said the Bishops.