The Status of Human Rights Organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa


Togo is a small country, lying between Ghana and Benin, sharing a border with Burkina Faso to the north, and an opening on the Atlantic Ocean. Its population of 3.4 million is very diverse, composed of approximately 40 ethnic groups, speaking more than 50 languages. Although two groups, the Ewe and Kabye, are dominant, each of the groups has its own very rich culture.

Togo is primarily an agricultural country. The capital, Lome, is a lovely city. Before 1992, the authorities had wanted to make its port into the first free port of Africa, which, it was expected, would have given a boost to the country's economy.

Togo is a former French colony, which became independent in 1960. A few years after independence, General Eyadema perpetrated a coup, and has since been head of state. He has declared his willingness to forego military rule in favor of a civilian government. However, he has ruled Togo until now as a "one man show." He has established a cult of personality within the country, while internationally posing as a great democrat.

After riots in Benin and the installation of a transitional government there, people in Togo began to demand more liberties and rights, calling for a national conference. The students, as usual, started the process. Some of them were brutally treated and were put on trial. People broke into the courtroom and sang songs of liberty, beginning an escalating process of repression. Despite protests and condemnations by the international community, human rights violations in Togo have been massive. This situation has culminated in nearly half of the population fleeing to the neighboring countries of Benin and Ghana.

After talks, a transitional government was installed, with a Prime Minister elected by the National Conference. Soon, however, the Prime Minister appeared to lose his independence. After the return of some of the refugees and conciliation initiatives by other African Heads of State, it was decided to hold presidential and legislative elections. The presidential elections were held, and were won by Eyadema, although the opposition has claimed that there was massive fraud during the election. Legislative elections are to be held in February 1994. It is likely that, even if the opposition fails to win the elections, it will be well-represented in Parliament. As a result, things are likely to change.

The human rights situation in Togo has been particularly bad in the past three years, with mass killings, extra-judicial executions, rapes, bombing of houses, etc. A regime of terror has taken over the country, and the authorities appear to be deaf to the appeals and condemnations of the international human rights community. Prisoners were found dead in their cells, political opponents killed, and members of the press arrested. Nowadays things seem to have improved slightly, but violations continue to occur, only more discretely. It is not possible to talk freely in Togo; even in private homes people do not trust one another. People continue to be killed and burned in the streets.


None of the Togolese NGOs discussed in this report, with the one exception of the Ligue pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme au Togo, are officially recognized, although they have submitted the necessary requests to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. NGOs work in very difficult conditions. Executive members are threatened every day, and some have been compelled to flee the country. Work conditions are totally insecure. People do not trust one another; you risk your life by criticizing the government or denouncing human rights violations. The insecurity has spread all over the country; no sector is safe.

It was not possible for the researcher to meet with all the human rights NGOs on her list, because in some cases executive members of an organization were in exile, while in others the NGO did not exist any longer because its executives were in prison.

Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture-Togo

(Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture-Togolese Section)



The Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture-Togo (ACAT-Togo) was formed following the government's savage repression of the student demonstrations of September 1990. ACAT-Togo has sought, but has so far not yet received, official authorization to function.


ACAT-Togo's objective is to work towards the elimination of torture, whether public or domestic, and to sensitize Christians on the need to eliminate torture.


ACAT-Togo's members are Christians of all origins. The organization has no paid staff and no office.


When ACAT-Togo receives a complaint, it investigates to determine the truth of the allegation, visits the victim, and alerts national and international NGOs. The organization does not contact the author of the violations, since it has learned from experience that this is not productive. To date, the organization has responded to approximately two hundred cases of torture.

Due to the serious political situation in Togo, the organization has not yet started work on the second aspect of its objective--the abolition of domestic torture (for example, battered women or children, and sexual mutilation). It also does not yet work against psychological torture (for example, threats by parents, harassment by telephone or flagrant surveillance).

Other actions ACAT-Togo undertakes are:

- organizing prayer groups for the benefit of tortured persons and detainees; and

- helping people leave the country.

Association Togolaise de Lutte contre la Torture

(Togolese Association for Struggle against Torture)



The Association Togolaise de Lutte contre la Torture (ATLT) was spontaneously created in September 1990 during the trial of students who had led strikes and made declarations about the situation in Togo. The organization's President had to flee the country.


ATLT's mandate is to fight against torture in the public and domestic spheres, and to monitor human rights violations.


ATLT has approximately 100 members and no paid staff.


Currently, ATLT is primarily involved in helping produce reports on human rights violations with the Ligue Togolaise pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme et des Libertés Publiques and the Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme. Financial constraints make it difficult to carry on other activities. It is also a member of SOS Torture International and denounces cases of torture brought to its attention by that organization.

Ligue Internationale pour les Droits de l'Enfant

(International League for the Rights of the Child)



The Ligue International pour las Droits de l'Enfant (LIDE) was created in July 1992 after events in Togo provoked a mass panic among the population, forcing people to flee the country. A group of young people, shocked by the effects of these events on children--many becoming orphans or being abandoned, schools being closed, etc.--decided to create LIDE. LIDE has applied for official authorization, but has not yet received it.


The main objective of LIDE is the protection and promotion of children and their mothers. In the current situation in Togo, the organization focuses on helping children to survive.


LIDE's members are lawyers, professionals, students and jobless young people. It has its own headquarters, and an administrative assistant. Others work on a volunteer basis.


LIDE has used the press to sensitize the population about its work. As a result, the population generally knows of its existence, and calls upon it any time they think there is a violation of children's rights. To date, the organization has received six complaints. When it receives a complaint, it investigates by talking with children, neighbors, and other interested persons. It mediates with government authorities, and helps children and/or parents by appealing to other NGOs and administrative bodies. It also publishes reports which are sent to external partners to generate international solidarity.

LIDE also sensitizes other organizations in Togo, including women's NGOs and the press, by holding seminars and workshops focusing on children's rights and their protection. It has also held training seminars with members of Parliament and other NGOs.

Ligue pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme au Togo

(League for the Promotion of Human Rights in Togo)



The Ligue pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme au Togo (LPDH) was formed and officially recognized in early 1993 by a group of young professionals who wanted to respond to the mass violations of human rights in Togo. It is generally believed in Lome that LPDH was created with the help of President Eyadema. Leaders of LPDH, however, object to this allegation, and say they are independent of all influences and have the same problems as other NGOs working in the human rights field.


LPDH's main objective is training and education of the population about their human rights and the means for exercising those rights. It is also interested in training the population in the role of good citizens in a democratic society.


LPDH's members include lawyers, teachers and high ranking civil servants. It has no paid staff and no office space.


LPDH has held conferences on human rights subjects in all of the large towns in the country. It has made inquiries on abuses committed by the political opposition to the current government; it believes that violations are perpetrated by both the government and the opposition, and thus they should report on and denounce all of them. It has published a book with photographs of different human rights violations (killings, property destruction and so on) allegedly committed by police forces and by opposition groups. It officially requested the government to create an investigating committee to look into the death of fifteen people in police custody, and plans to help the families of the victims present their claims in court.

LPDH has set up sections in eight towns of Togo, and has sent investigating committees to both Ghana and Benin to look at the situation of Togolese refugees. It has organized the return of refugees with the help of the Ministry of Health and Population.

Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme

(Togolese League for Human Rights)



The Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme (LTDH) was established in July 1990, but has not yet been officially recognized. It was the first independent human rights NGO created in Togo and is generally well thought of both inside and outside the country. The authorities threatened some of LTDH's members, physically and by destruction of their houses, cars and other property. From the start, LTDH has resisted this type of government pressure.


LTDH has two objectives:

- the promotion, protection and defense of human rights; and

- training of its members and the population to enable them to participate in building a law-ruled state.


LTDH currently has 3,000 members, who are lawyers, teachers, professionals and citizens at all levels. It has a small staff, but volunteer members do most of the actual work. The organization has no office space of its own, and is currently using the office space and facilities of a lawyer member of the organization.


As soon as LTDH was created, it started receiving complaints, and thus began the process of human rights monitoring and reporting. LTDH registers each complaint it receives, and transmits each to a member of the Executive Bureau, who, in turn, investigates the complaint and reports the findings to the Bureau. Authorities are approached about violations. Where the response is inadequate, cases are taken to court, or the organization launches a press campaign by sending communiques to newspapers, radio and television stations. Letters are also sent to President Eyadema by members of LTDH. Finally, they inform the international community and ask that international NGOs and others take action such as sending letters to the authorities, press releases, etc.

Ligue Togolaise pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme et des Libertés Publiques

(Togolese League for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties)



The Ligue Togolaise pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme et des Libertés Publiques (Togolese League for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties) (LTDHLP) was created in September 1990 by a group of citizens who wanted to respond to the mass violations of human rights in the country. The organization does not yet have legal status. Members risk their lives every day in doing the work. The President, who received threatening letters, has fled the country.


LTDHLP's objectives are:

- the promotion and protection of human rights; and

- human rights education.


LTDHLP has 500 members, but since 1992 most of its members are outside Togo. The organization has no paid staff and no office. It uses the same facilities as the Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme.


LTDHLP's main activity since 1992 has been to work together with the Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l'Homme to publish reports on human rights violations in the country. In the past few months members have been working with the private press on a common concern about the disappearance of the free press. They have issued an international alert on this subject.

- Seny Diagne

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