After Tikpi Atchadam, who in 2018 invoked “threats on his life”, a second opponent has just gone underground in Togo. Kodjo Agbéyomé, who is still calling for his “victory” in the February 2020 presidential election, is now under an international mandate. His lawyers are asking the ECOWAS court to halt the proceedings.
The Togolese judiciary has issued an international arrest warrant against Togolese opponent Kodjo Agbéyomé – who came second in the presidential election of February 22, 2020 – after he fled the country fearing “for his life”, he says.
The warrant was issued on July 15 by the investigating judge because the opponent, prosecuted in particular for “attack on the security of the State”, refused, for the second time in the space of a few months, to answer to a judicial summons.
The information given by the local Togolese press was confirmed by Me Célestin Agbogan, one of the councils of the former Prime Minister, former president (and currently deputy) in the Togolese National Assembly. He maintains that his client mentioned before fleeing “fears for his safety and a plot to eliminate him physically”.
“Our client informed us that from a reliable source, and to avoid experiencing unfortunate events, he preferred to take shelter for safety. It means that his life is in danger. It is no longer a court case, even if he has already affirmed his availability to answer the facts alleged against him in Togolese justice,” said Mr. Célestin Agbogan.
These facts correspond to the four charges brought against the candidate of the Dynamic Monseigneur Kpodzro (DMK) for the presidential election of February 2020: “attack on the security of the State”, “dissemination of false information”, “slanderous denunciations” and “aggravated disturbances to public order”. Charges that have been pursuing him since he began to contest the results of the poll.
“Mr. Kodjo Agbéyomé was very clear. He said his life was threatened, so he took cover. I can tell the Togolese that he did not give up the fight. The struggle continues. It is a commitment he made. He knows, and he is aware that he is invested with a mission ”, added in the local media Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson, spokesperson for Dynamique Monseigneur Kpodzro and Kodjo Agbéyomé.
The local press reports that the opponent was seen in neighboring Ghana, where he took refuge “disguised as a woman”.
Fallen from his parliamentary immunity after the presidential election, Kodjo Agbéyomé was summoned on July 11, 2020, by the dean of the investigating magistrates, like two other executives of the DMK. He did not make the trip.
The investigating judge, having noted his absence, he had a report of failure to appear drawn up and issued an international arrest warrant against him. It is the second time since March that the Togolese opponent has refused to respond to a summons from the courts.
His non-appearance, the first time on April 21, 2020, in the same procedure, had already led to his arrest, followed by his release three days later under four conditions.
He had “the obligation to defer to the various summons of the prosecution as soon as it is required”, “the prohibition to leave the national territory without express authorization”, “the prohibition to make any statement tending to call it into question the results of the presidential election of February 22, 2020” and “the prohibition of any statement, declaration or attitude tending to question and undermine the existing constitutional and institutional order”.
Conditions that the Togolese opponent has not fully respected. He continued, for example, to contest the results of the presidential election and even seized the court of justice of the organization of the countries of West Africa (ECOWAS), in order to pronounce “the nullity of the lifting procedure of his parliamentary immunity” which took place on March 16, 2020.
A waiver of immunity
Since March 16, 2020, the lawyers of Kodjo Agbéyomé denounce an irregular lifting of the parliamentary immunity of their client.
They subsequently seized the ECOWAS court of justice to have the resolution of the Togolese National Assembly canceling this parliamentary immunity annulled.
In a press release published on July 14, 2020, lawyers for Kodjo Agbéyomé announced that on this main request, the ECOWAS court of justice seized the Togolese state through its registry. This suggests a trial to come since, from this moment, the Togolese State must appoint a lawyer to answer questions from the ECOWAS court of justice.
In the meantime, and “in compliance with international standards for a fair trial”, Kodjo Agbéyomé’s lawyers said in a press release that they had made a new request to the same court, asking it to stop the proceedings.
Despite a rather stable economic situation, the Togolese government is challenged by the opposition and civil society who are fighting for a work-study program. In 2025, President Faure Gnassingbé will have completed 20 years in power that he inherited from his late father. This last had governed the country, without division, for 38 years.