Togo, with a population of 6.3 million, is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, who was declared president in 2005 in an election marred by irregularities and violence. President Faure Gnassingbe replaced his father, former President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in 2005 after 38 years in power. Eyadema and his party Rally of the Togolese People, strongly backed by the armed forces, had dominated politics and maintained control over all levels of the highly centralized government until his death. While the military authorities generally lack civilian oversight and continue to be involved to some extent in politics, Togo has shown democratic progress with the free legislative elections of October 2007, in which the opposition participated for the first time and gained seats in the National Assembly. The human rights situation in the country has improved; however, human rights problems continue, including: partial inability of citizens to change their government; official impunity; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; abuse of detainees; executive influence over the judiciary; infringement of citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on the press, including the banning of some media programs; restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement; corruption; female genital mutilation and violence against women; discrimination against women; regional and ethnic favoritism; trafficking in persons, especially children; child labor; and lack of workers' rights in export processing zones.
The U.S. government's main priorities are to promote democracy, good governance, and human rights through active engagement for free and fair presidential elections in 2010 and the continued pursuit of opportunities to improve civil-military relations. The U.S. embassy also encourages the development of a more independent judiciary and will assist the country as it reengages with international and bilateral donors.
The U.S. government played an influential role in efforts to promote free and fair legislative elections in 2007 by contributing to the United Nations Development Program legislative election project. In collaboration with the Africa Regional Service in Paris, the embassy organized a week-long pre-election training of trainers workshop for representatives from seven Togolese media associations, who then received funding from the embassy to train 175 radio, television, and print reporters on professional coverage of the legislative elections.
The U.S. ambassador meets frequently with diplomatic colleagues and international organizations to coordinate efforts to promote democracy and good governance, decentralization, and fiscal reform.
The United States also funds the training of military officers, government officials, and members of civil society organizations on how to promote and strengthen civil-military relations. The U.S. government sent three judges to a week-long course on military justice at the Defense Institute for Legal Studies. In collaboration with the Togolese Bar Association, the embassy organized a seminar on judicial assistance. The state prosecutor participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program on the administration of justice.
The embassy maintains an American Corner, located at the University of Lome library. The main objective of the programs at the American Corner is to promote democratic values and an understanding of U.S. society and culture to university students and faculty, the media, and members of civil society organizations. Guest speaker programs, book debates, digital video conferences, and seminars focus on topics such as women's rights, transparency and good governance, media freedom, the role of the military in a democracy, and the rights of minority groups.
The ambassador and other U.S. officials meet regularly with members of the government, opposition, and civil society to advocate for democracy and human rights goals and attend events organized by NGOs to demonstrate support for local initiatives on a wide range of topics, including press freedom, women's rights, trafficking in persons, government reforms, corruption, and transparency.
The embassy regularly reaches out to offer training and other support to the Togolese media. The U.S. government funded an electoral media monitoring project organized by the Togolese Media Observatory, a private media watchdog organization composed of professional journalists. In collaboration with local media associations, the U.S. government funded a training workshop in May 2008 on media self-regulation that will include participants from media associations and government regulatory institutions from Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali.
The United States also promotes human rights and democratic civic participation through democracy and human rights projects and public diplomacy outreach programs. The embassy worked with various segments of civil society on projects ranging from the efficiency and human rights practices of the judicial system to promoting civic education and women's rights, particularly in rural areas. One project helped over 1,000 women and children obtain official identity documents, which resulted in access to continuing education and an enhanced ability to exercise their rights under Togolese law. The United States recently committed to funding additional projects that will address topics such as the rights of persons with disabilities, the role of women as leaders and in politics, and radio broadcast programs on corruption and good governance.
The U.S. government supports a program to combat the worst forms of child labor. U.S. officials meet regularly with the program's local administrator and attend meetings of NGOs, who are working to develop a common strategy for the fight against child trafficking and labor in Togo.