Togo: “neglected” populations proclaim their attachment to Benin

In Togo, populations of two cantons in the south-east “solemnly proclaimed their attachment to the Republic of Benin”. Hoisting the flag of this country, the inhabitants said the Togolese authorities abandoned them. “An act of defiance” that they find difficult to understand.

They now want to be considered as Beninese and no longer as Togolese! Disgruntled residents of Badin and Kamina, two Togolese localities close to the border with Benin, posted in several places “their solemn proclamation”, flanked by the Beninese flag.

In these two cantons of south-eastern Togo, they castigate pell-mell “the failure to keep the campaign promises made by the Head of State during the presidential elections of 2015 and 2020”, “the lack of appointment of new chiefs cantons” (since the death of the last holders of these posts, several years ago), “the non-promotion of the natives of the zone to the posts of an inspector, principal, ambassador, chief of staff or even of a minister”, “the absence of high schools and rural tracks”.

“Requests for the development of rural roads and the construction of bridges have gone unanswered, accentuating the total isolation of the area. During periods of flooding of rivers and streams, there are a large number of deaths, especially of women who want to give birth, due to the lack of practicable roads leading to a health center,” reads this statement, reported by local sites.

These are all reasons why these populations feel “neglected” by the highest authorities to the point of wanting to join Benin.

“In view of all this, the populations of the cantons of Badin and Kamina have decided this September 14, 2021, to solemnly proclaim their attachment to the Republic of Benin, a neighbouring country to which their populations turn most often not only to sell their crops but also to acquire basic necessities. We will undertake steps very soon with the Beninese authorities for serious consideration of our concerns so that our people flourish,” the statement said.

“The leaders are invisible”

To what extent does this statement reflect the support of an entire population? Kokou Tambo-Assitchou, mayor of the commune of Est-Mono 2, to which the cantons in question belong, admits that the inhabitants said they “adhere to the content of the message that was broadcast”.

“But not all of these claims are true. The fact that the flag of Benin was planted on a portion of Togolese territory is also an act of defiance condemnable. We condemn it with rigor,” insisted the mayor. A condemnation that does not prevent him from considering that the cry of distress of the people deserves to be taken seriously.

“We will engage in discussion with the people to calm them down. To this end, we have called on some local executives and opinion leaders of the prefecture to make people understand the seriousness of the acts that have been committed,” said Kokou Tambo-Assitchou, who himself went to collect the posters and flags of Benin to hoisting them at the headquarters of the prefecture. He believes that “the leaders [of this movement] are invisible”.

Many problems

Already, the mayor of Est-Mono 2 assures that certain grievances formulated by the populations of Badin and Kamina “were already part of those drawn up by the town halls and the prefecture to the competent authorities, and have already been taken into account”.

According to him, since 2019, the year of his election, 13 localities of the prefecture of East Mono have benefited from electricity, 15 other villages are also in the process of having soon under the government project of rural electrification. Similarly, he adds, “for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, two new high schools have just been created”.

As for the rural roads and bridges, he said that steps have been taken with the Togolese authorities and that “work has just begun on two roads at the time the declaration of attachment to Benin is made”. The mayor did not specify, however, if all these achievements concern the cantons in question.

“Many efforts have been made, but at the base, there are already too many problems. That’s what gives the impression that things are not moving. We will work to reassure people that things will go in the right direction while making them understand that the act was not good,” he concluded.

The Beninese authorities, anxious to maintain good neighborly relations, have refrained from any reaction.

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