An international arrest warrant has been issued for Agbéyomé Kodjo, the Togolese opposition leader who lost to incumbent president Faure Gnassingbé in Togo’s presidential election held on February 22. In a message sent to Agence France-Presse, Kodjo said he was in hiding somewhere in Togo after he had refused a summons to appear in court on July 10.
The prosecutor of Lomé’s lower court, Essolissam Poyodi, subsequently filed the arrest warrant. In a social media post, Kodjo wrote that he feared for his life and would remain in hiding. This warrant is the latest in a series of actions that have targeted Kodjo and his Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD) party. On April 21, sixteen party members were arrested and sentenced to four months in prison for “flagrant offenses, rebellion and complicity in rebellion.” Kodjo, who won 19.46 percent of the vote compared with 70.78 percent for Gnassingbé, accused the authorities of widespread election fraud.
Gnassingbé assumed power in 2005 following the death of his father
Kodjo himself was arrested and detained on April 21 and held for four days over similar accusations of encouraging revolt. In March, Togo’s National Assembly voted to lift Kodjo’s parliamentary immunity following a petition by Poyodi, accusing Kodjo of “assaulting state security” due to his repeated criticisms of the February election. President Gnassingbé assumed power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, with the backing of the military, and has retained his family’s hold on the country ever since.
The most recent presidential election did not have any independent election observers present, after Togo’s national election commission revoked the main independent observer group’s accreditation just days before the vote. Catholic Church observers were also prevented from monitoring the election. This, combined with Togo’s history of failing to hold free elections, incited Kodjo and other opposition parties to reject the official results of the February election.