Documentary Photography – Togo’s “Democratorship”

Predators

These young girls are only a few meters away from the most frightening predator from African nature. But here, in the tax free zone of Lomé, the crocodile they are trying to awake is really harmless behind the bars.
In the capital, the most dangerous predators are free. Are they the Green Army suited black men sitting on a throne in their government palace, or are they suited white men in western embassies, or multinational companies taking profits from the tax free zone.

 

This travel/documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Photographer Pierre Suchet.

 

Click on any image to see Pierre’s series and portraits.

 

Gold and lead This very young girl is back to the wall, at a crossway. Where the wall goes from wooden tradition to western bricks. She trains carrying. It is too soon for her to carry babies or water. So she plays with two stones, issued from the ground of her country. A ground weighting gold for a handful of men ruling the country with an iron fist. A heavy burden for her and the majority of her compatriots.

 

From project “Promised Land” by Pierre Suchet.

 

Pierre-SUCHET-TOGO-Promised-Land-24

 

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, when is blowing the Harmattan, this wind loaded of sand coming from the desert. The sky is becoming milky, and the light diffuse. In 2005, after Eyadéma death, a wind of hope raised as elections were coming, after 38 years of dictatorship. A wind of wrath, from men and women who went in the streets to claim for a real democracy. Opponents murders, massive repression of protests, electoral fraud,.... Human Rights League, European Union, United Nations denounced the legitimacy of the new power. French president Jacques Chirac congratulated the new president. The

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, !rst democratically elected president. Then his murder by sergeant Gnassingbé Eyadema, with the support of France. The second man only known the long reign of 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 speech in Dakar in 2007. French president told him african man was living in symbiosis with nature and was not entered in History. He looks at me with a suspicious look. I think that he does not want that the french photographer in front of him writes his history with his camera.

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<br /> Promised land: the real estate agency found a nice name. While unaffordable for most of Togolese, houses or lands 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.

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<br /> Togo is the 8th largest cocoa producer in the world. But the failure and perverse effects of international politics imposed on African economies led many cocoa producers to diversify into cannabis.

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.

At the stove
In Togo, in 2010, 58% of children between 5 and 17 were economically active.

 

Triangular trade<br /> The young man works his strength, on the beach leading to Lomé harbor. This harbor did not exist during slave period. Its construction, done during the first years of Togo independency 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.

Triangular trade
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<br /> 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.

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.

 

The repair Why do you want to take a picture ? You must be prepared to answer this question in the street of Lomé. After my explanations, the two men accepted, under condition to take a picture of the moped, being repaired. Here, nothing can be done without these motorized twowheelers, carrying whole families.

The repair
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<br /> 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?

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<br /> 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, government regularly launches police forces into “Operations Funnel” against this parallel market. These operations frequently turn into a drama.

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<br /> Everyone walks a lot in Lomé. Or we take « zémidjans », those moto-taxis at red lights on crossways before carrying you to the other side of town, at your own risks. Decades of dictatorship and IMF structural adjustment plans wiped out what remained as public transports. Running public transports again would make moto-taxi drivers unemployed.

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<br /> 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.

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.

 

See also:

Togo Portraits

India

By Pierre Suchet


Back to HOME PAGE

%d bloggers like this: