As the world celebrated the fall of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh earlier this year, which was seen as another sign of strengthening democratic rule in West Africa, Togolese activist Farida Nabourema couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.
While other regions on the continent, especially Central Africa, grapple with incumbent power grabs including “constitutional coups,” the story in West Africa has been more positive in recent years. In addition to Jammeh, the longtime president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, was forced to leave office in 2014 following a popular uprising, and more orderly transfers of power have occurred in countries like Benin, Nigeria and Ghana.
But not Togo. The sliver of a country remains an outlier, having been governed by the same family now for half a century. Eyadema Gnassingbe ruled for 38 years before dying in office of a heart attack in 2005. His son, Faure Gnassingbe, took over that same year following a highly flawed election that resulted in the deaths of up to 500 people. He remains in power today, having most recently won a third term in 2015.