DE RUEHPC #0332 1291438
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091438Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY LOME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7932
INFO RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2134
RUEHCO/AMEMBASSY COTONOU 3941
RUEHOU/AMEMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU 8872
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0558 UNCLAS LOME 000332
PARIS FOR GREG D'ELIA
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: TOGO -- 47TH INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION
1. (U) Charge attended the celebration of Togo's
Independence on April 27th, held in Dapaong, the northernmost
city in Togo. About 15,000 people, military and civilian,
marched in the parade. The location and size of the
celebration might be taken as an indication of the evolution
of national identity in post-Eyadema Togo.
2. (U) Background: Togo achieved independence from France
on April 27, 1960. Sylvanus Olympio, the first president (and
a southerner of the Ewe tribe) was assassinated on January
13, 1963 and Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power in Africa's
first coup on January 13, 1967. On September 23, 1986 he
successfully resisted a coup attempt. As part of his
utilization of a cult of personality to leverage his power
over a 38-year dictatorship, Eyadema played down the April 27
date and played up the September 23 and January 13 dates.
Since Eyadema's sudden death and the ensuing civil unrest in
early 2005, the government of President Faure Gnassingbe has
been promoting national reconciliation. The GoT seems to be
looking for ways to transition away from the divisive
celebrations of the past. The celebration of September 23 is
popular with military so the most recent iteration of the
ceremony in 2006 was a low-key event held at the main
military camp in Lome. This was a change from past practice,
which was to block a major transportation artery in Lome and
hold a day-long parade. Of note from the January 13, 2007
celebration is the fact that the Prime Minister, the leader
of a southern opposition party, did not attend. The Embassy
was represented at a low level at both events.
3. (U) The GoT recently announced that, henceforth, April 27
Independence Day would be celebrated at a different city each
year. Local businesses get a boost from the influx of
visitors and parade participants. The government will usually
widen and repave the stretch of road over which the parade
will pass and will provide some other public works. In
Dapaong, the GoT elected to pave a short stretch of road for
the parade and construct an improved open-air market
structure. Construction on the market had not progressed far
enough for President Faure to present it to the people.
4. (U) On April 27, the Union des Forces de Changement
(UFC), the party of Sylvanus Olympio, led by his son,
Gilchrist Olympio, held their own independence celebration at
their stronghold in Atakpame, 100 miles north of Lome.
5. (SBU) Comment: One might infer that the GoT is equivocal
at some level about national reconciliation. A big
celebration sponsored by the government to mark the real date
of Independence of Togo after many years of neglect is a
positive indication. The fact that the celebration was held
400 miles north of the homeland of the father of
independence, Sylvanus Olympio, and not far from the home
place of the self-styled father of the nation Gnassingbe
Eyadema (who was implicated in the assassination of
Sylvanus), makes one wonder what message the GoT intended to
send. End Comment.
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