I traveled to Togo for a wedding. During my walks in the streets of Lomé, the capital of Togo, I collected unconsciously a series of symbolic scenes, asking different aspects of daily life within a « democratorship ». This is the word used by Togolese people, to talk about their political system. Confiscation of wealth by a minority, corruption at the top of state, police brutality, land grabbing,…, all with the support from the former colonial power : France.
The wind is rising The wind plays with the dress of the young girl in the background, while ignoring the other. It is January, the wind is full of sand coming from the desert and the sky is milky. In 2005, after Eyadéma’s death, a wind of hope raised as elections were coming, after 38 years of dictatorship. Men and women, who went into the streets to claim a real democracy. Human Rights League, European Union, United Nations denounced the legitimacy of the new power. French president Jacques Chirac congratulated the new president.
Dakar speech The eldest man was a witness of the independence of his country and the coming to power of Sylvanius Olympio, the first democratically elected president. Then his murder by sergeant Gnassingbé Eyadema with the support of France. The second man only knowns the long reign of the Gnassingbé clan : the one with father Eyadéma, since the coup of 1963 until his natural death in 2005. Since 2013, with the son, inheriting the throne, after rigged elections, under constant goodwill from France. The youngest heard Nicolas Sarkozy speak in Dakar, in 2007. The French president told him African men were living in symbiosis with nature and were not entered in History. He looks at me with a suspicious look. I think that he does not want the French photographer in front of him writing his history with the camera.
The price of paradise
Promised land: the real estate agency found a nice name. While unaffordable for most of Togolese, houses or land proposed for sale or rent stay modest. On another scale, other transactions are done, leading to land-grabbing from foreign investors, for biofuel or extraction of phosphate and often without compensation for expropriated peasants.
Bitter cocoa Togo is the 8th largest cocoa producer in the world. But the failure and perverse effects of international politics imposed on African economies lead many cocoa producers to diversify into cannabis.
At the stove In Togo, in 2010, 58% of children between 5 and 17 were economically active.
The young man works his strength, on the beach leading to Lomé harbor. This harbor did not exist during the slave period. Its construction, done during the first years of Togo independence was not the taste of France, the former colonial power. It is one of the rare deep sea harbors in West Africa. From here goes out Africa wealth, from gold to uranium and coming in goods such as drugs and weapons.
White waters During the day, along the sea side, football offers hope of social promotion. At the same place, during the night, drugs destroy lives. Far from the beach, whitewashing money from the drug market enrich those at the top of the state.
Why do you want to take a picture ? You must be prepared to answer this question in the streets of Lomé. After my explanations, the two men accepted, under a condition to take a picture of the moped, being repaired. Here, nothing can be done without these motorized two wheeler, carrying whole families.
The Molotov cocktail For a handful of CFA francs, this seller fills the tank of the moped. The money he carries in his hands is nothing compared to the fortune of the Eyadema clan in power for more than 40 years. Some opponents estimate it represents 4,5 billion US dollars, corresponding to 3 times the external debt of Togo, accumulated during the dictatorship. The amount is beyond any human measure. Does this seller think about another use for his fuel?
Operation Funnel Where is this smuggling fuel seller? Is he away for a rest, far from the gasoline vapors? Is he at the police station for not having discretely given a banknote to the policeman? While not being able to guarantee a decent revenue to the population, the government regularly launches the police forces into “Operations Funnel” against this parallel market. These operations frequently turn into a drama.
Walking Everyone walks alot in Lomé. Or we take « zémidjans », those moto-taxis at the red lights taken at ones own risk. Decades of dictatorship and IMF structural adjustment plans wiped out what remained of public transports. Running public transports again would make moto-taxi drivers unemployed.
The vice This street mechanic did not go through the hands of ANR agents, well known for the use of torture on opponents. In 2012, the Human Rights League president in Togo received death threats before publicizing his annual report. He escaped abroad. A cleaned-up version of the report was published on the government website.