When we often talk about the victims of the RPT regime, we rarely mention women because their stories are not very much displayed on the web. However, many Togolese women have suffered great amount of atrocities from the now 50 years old dictatorial regime. Barbaric and cruel acts that should not go unpunished, but that they are trying to force people to forget while they continue to oppress them. In this article, I will count the true story of three women who have been victims of torture and abuses by the RPT regime and to ensure their safety, I will name them Ms. komlan, Ms. Yao and Ms. Kofi.
Ms. Komlan and Ms. Yao were the wives of two gents who were arrested in the armed robbery case of a store called Marc Lei located in Tokoin Amoutievé in Lome (capital city of Togo). Their husbands together with another man were arrested by Togolese gendarmes and were accused of being responsible for the robbery. Mr Komlan and his comrades were then brutally beaten and tortured by the gendarmes to force them to confess to the crime. But they denied it despite the torture they were subjected to.
In order to obtain their confessions, the Togolese gendarmes decided to arrest the wives of these men. They went to the pregnant Mrs. Komlan’s house and took her under their custody for a "forceful interrogation." The police asked Ms. Komlan to denounce her husband and confess that he was responsible for the crime he was being charged with. But just like her husband, she denied the charges. The gendarmes therefore chose to use a wild method to obtain confessions from the lady. They undressed her, wrapped her breasts with electrical cords and electrocuted her through the breasts. The lady who was pregnant at the time, miscarried her baby during the process. Notwithstanding, her pain, cries and even the blood that was rolling on her did not soften the heart of the gendarmes who continued to shock her till she lost consciousness.
Ms. Yao was arrested for the same reasons; the "Marc Lei" robbery case. She had just given birth to a baby and was living in a small room in a popular neighborhood of Lome. When the police went to her house to arrest her, she was with her baby at the time of the arrest. They took her away and left the baby all alone on the bed. Despite her pleadings to find a guardian for her baby while she was being taken away, the officers refused to give in. The baby died of hunger and heat few days later and the neighbors only found out days later when his body was decomposing and the smell was becoming unbearable.
Mrs. Kofi's story is very similar to that of Ms. Komlan, the only difference being that her husband was a professor at the University of Lomé and was accused of distributing leaflets against the RPT regime. As a result, the wife was arrested and tortured to admit her husband’s "crime". But just like Mrs. Komlan, when she refused to tell the gendarmes what they wanted to hear, she was tortured, abused and electrocuted through her intimate parts.
Today I decided to share the story of these three women who have been victims of cruelty for haven committed one “crime”: that of being the wife of a man suspected of a crime. There are numerous cases similar to these in Togo and according to the testimonies that I’ve received, some other women were raped by the gendarmes with guns inserted into their genitals. In cases like that, mothers have lost babies and received shocks that have left them with terrible injuries. Others were simply killed like a lady who was deadly knocked on the head with a pestle.
Women are however not the only ones that were genitally tortured. Some men had electric cords wrapped on their testicles and were shocked till they passed out. One victim said that he was no longer potent and able to conceive after that as his genitals were severely damaged.
One wonders what prompted the zealous military police officers with such cruelty, viciousness and barbarism vis-à-vis their countrymen. Certainly, we cannot say that in each case they have received orders "from above" on how to treat their prisoners. But these abuses have been and are possible due to the non-existence of a rule of law and the non-punishment of such cruel individuals. The most deplorable part is that people who have committed such atrocities still circulate freely without any apparent remorse and others have even been promoted and are now high ranking officers who proudly display their hoops earned with the blood and tears of innocent citizens and that of children who have not even had the chance to grow up and know the name of their parents or that of their country.
Some would say that the past is the past and it is useless to put these crimes on the table now. Usually, those who say that are people whose parents have never been victims of such acts. And it's understandable that they do not measure the deepness and severity of these actions and they may not be bothered by the impunity of these crimes against the Togolese people and against humanity as a whole. Nevertheless, what I want these people to know is that we live in a country that’s still under the same system, ruled by the same people or new people who were trained within that system. We still live under a regime that continues to abuse people without any penalty. So, even if they or members of their families have not been victims of torture, it is possible that tomorrow might be their turn or that of their brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, spouse or friend for a crime they may have or may have not committed. In Togo, people are not arrested just because they have committed a crime but also because they are the relative of someone who is suspected of a crime. As a matter fact, even if one chooses to close an eye on what has happened and keeps happening, choose not to get involved in politics and remain honest, one might still be arrested, locked up, tortured and killed because of the actions of a relative X or a friend Y.
Dictatorship and injustice do not segregate and spare anyone. People who were and are the masters today and in position of power may tomorrow become slaves because of the dictatorial system; and changing the actors is never enough to change the whole system. Kpatcha Gnassingbe, the brother and ex-zealous servant of Faure Gnassingbe himself can attest.
Fighting for the establishment of the rule of law goes beyond love or hate an officer or a ruler. It is about creating a state system routed in the foundations of justice, liberty, fairness and respect for human lives. Concepts and values that should become a tradition. And that starts with the destruction of the pillars of authoritarianism.