Handing out democracies like candyposted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 06:58:00 AM
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- Patrick Jake O'Rourke
Mr. O'Rourke would likely not have been very surprised at yesterday's events in Togo. For those not familiar with this charming, bucolic little paradise, here's where it's located on the continent of Africa. (click on image for full size map.)
Togo was formerly a colony of France, (like most of Africa) but won independence back in the sixties. In 1992 they got themselves a shiny new democracy with a constitution and all of the trimmings. That constitution provided that, should the president of the country die while in office, the Speaker of the Parliament would serve as president pro-tem until new elections could be held - preferably within sixty days.
Everything was going swimmingly for the fun loving Togons until the system was actually put to the test. Their president died this weekend and things, as they say... took a turn.
The United States joined the African Union and France in calling on Togo's military to respect constitutional processes Monday after the Togolese military installed the son of its former leader to succeed his father as president.
Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled Togo since 1967, died over the weekend en route to medical treatment overseas.
Eyadema's son, 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe, was named the country's president after his father's death.
The son of the ruler who was deposed in 1967 said he felt that "nothing much had changed" because the late president ran the country as a "military dictatorship" for the last 38 years anyway.
The point is that you can go into a country which did not naturally evolve a democracy and try to forcefully plant one. That doesn't mean, however, that a valid, vibrant democracy is necessarily going to evolve. Togo had a democracy "in name" for nearly four decades. But underneath, it was a dictatorship backed by the military. They were able to keep the facade in place as long as they kept the parliament in line. The mask gets ripped off, however, when the passage of power is suddenly taken over by the military and, surprise... surprise ... surprise, they give it to the previous leader's son.
Of the many object lessons available around the world, Dubya and his "nation building" team should take a peek at Togo before they start popping open the champagne bottles over the recent Iraq elections. Theocracies and puppet governments propped up by clerics are far more the order of the day over there.