Togo: death in exile of opponent Agbeyomé Kodjo

Former prime minister turned opponent, Gabriel Messan Agbéyomé Kodjo died on Sunday afternoon, March 3, in Tema, Ghana

Togo: death in exile of opponent Agbeyomé Kodjo

Former prime minister turned opponent, Gabriel Messan Agbéyomé Kodjo died on Sunday afternoon, March 3, in Tema, Ghana. He was living in exile after contesting the result of the Togolese presidential election of February 2020, which he believed he had won against Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, head of state since 2005. According to the national press, the 70-year-old man makes one feel “uncomfortable”. His family has so far declined to comment or provide details.

“I was not aware of the fact that he was ill,” explains to Le Monde Paul Missiagbéto, special advisor to Mr. Kodjo, in charge of political and civic affairs of his party, the Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD). ).

“I know he died in Ghana around 3 p.m. Otherwise, we never talked about the place where he was in exile. I just know that he lived in hiding and that he told me several times that he did not leave his house for fear that something would happen to him,” Mr. Missiagbéto explains to Le Monde. His death weakens an opposition fractured by internal struggles when, already, it had lost Bishop Philippe Fanko Kpodzro on January 9, who died at the age of 93 in Sweden. He also fled the country the day after the 2020 presidential election, during which he supported Agbéyomé Kodjo.

Since this election, Mr. Kodjo has continued to claim to be the “elected president” of Togo, denouncing a rigged election. According to the Constitutional Court, the opponent came second with 19.46% of the votes, behind the head of state. Proclaiming himself victorious and calling for the mobilization of the Togolese against the government, he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March 2020 and then arrested for a few days in April by the central criminal research and investigation service. He was then placed under judicial supervision. Fearing a new arrest after having once again claimed his victory, he went underground in July, thus beginning his exile.

Agbéyomé Kodjo had remained active on social networks and had filed international appeals about his condition. In 2022, Agbéyomé Kodjo obtained a victory with the condemnation of the Togolese state by ECOWAS which deemed the detention and arrest of the opponent in 2020 “arbitrary and illegal”.


A graduate of the University of Poitiers in France, Mr. Kodjo quickly became involved in politics in Togo, under Etienne Gnassingbé Eyadema, father of the current president. First minister of youth and sports, he was appointed minister of the interior from 1992 to 1993, and prime minister from 2000 to 2002. He then criticized the government, left the executive and went into exile in France until in 2005. It was in 2008 that he created his party, which would later become the MPDD.

Candidate for the 2010 and 2020 presidential elections, he was recognizable by his smoking tone. “He had that raspy voice that he used to harangue crowds. He spoke loudly and hardly needed a microphone,” recalls David Dosseh, leader of the Tournons la Page movement in Togo. Mr. Dosseh also recognizes a form of “political determination”, “especially since we no longer expected him in the 2020 presidential election.”

However, he was not unanimous among the opposition, who continued to criticize him for his past work in the service of power. He was blamed for the bloody repression of the opposition in Fréau Jardin, in Lomé, on January 25, 1993, while he was Minister of Security. Finally, his rivalry with the other historic opponent Jean-Pierre Fabre – today mayor of the 4th arrondissement of Lomé – contributed to the division of the Togolese opposition.

The death of the opponent occurs while Togo is in the midst of preparations for legislative and regional elections, scheduled for April 20, before the 2025 presidential election. The MPDD had decided to boycott these elections. “We have three conditions, failing which the member parties of the DMK coalition, of which MPDD is a member, are resolved not to go to the elections. We demand the return of political exiles, the release of political and opinion detainees and national and inclusive meetings,” Paul Missiagbéto explains to Le Monde. He specifies that the DMK contacted the Togolese government and the various European embassies in Togo to find support.

In a press release, Ben Koffi Djagba, who calls himself "prime minister" of the "government" of Agbéyomé Kodjo, "presents his sincere, most saddened condolences to all the daughters and sons of all of Togo" and "calls the Togolese people are going beyond and seeing a republican surge. » On the evening of March 4, the government of Togo had not reacted to the death of Agbéyomé Kodjo.