Saturday 24 February 2018

Togo plans religious purge of violent past

Togo plans religious purge of violent past
(AFP 06/25/17)

Togo's government on Friday announced a series of Christian, Islamic and voodoo "purification ceremonies" aimed at purging the country of its violent past and promoting reconciliation.

The West African nation was rocked by political unrest during presidential elections in 2005, which were won by Faure Gnassingbe, who remains in power.

An official death toll from the clashes has never been given. A group close to the government has said 105 while the opposition said 811 died.

The United Nations has said there were between 400 and 500 deaths.

The government on Friday said the "purification ceremonies" would take place July 3-9 to "promote the spirit of appeasement" and "tolerance".

The ceremonies are aimed at the "easing of tensions as a prelude to a reparation programme for victims", according to a state press release.

Ceremonies will be held across the country by all official religions in Togo, including in Roman Catholic and evangelical churches, in Islamic mosques and with voodoo priests, it added.

Togo's government set up a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to investigate political violence from 1958, when colonial ruler France announced it would make Togo independent, to 2005.

In 2011, a total of 22,415 people were identified as victims and some 2,475 of them initially received compensation totalling 2 billion CFA francs (3 million euros).

The head of Togo's high commission for reconciliation and reinforcement of national unity (HCRRUN), Awa Nana-Daboya, said more would be paid after the religious services.

"Prayers, libations and offerings" were expected at the ceremonies "to appease the hearts of the victims", she added.

Human rights groups and opposition political parties have denounced the fact that no-one has ever been tried for the violence in 2005.

In April 2010, France's Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture and Amnesty International appealed to Gnassingbe to end impunity for the unrest.

Gnassingbe's father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, was president of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005. The ex-military officer ruled the former French colony with an iron fist.

According to Amnesty International, arbitrary arrest, detention and torture are still commonplace.

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