March 4, 2010

Rarely am I out in Lomé past dark, and very rarely until our 10 pm curfew. After all, as a yovo [a better pronunciation than “yova,” apparently]  woman I should never go beyond the ship without either a man or at least two other yovo women. At night, no yovo should travel on foot, be you man or woman.

Last night, however, curfew was pushed up to 6:30 and the gangway closed with every crew member on board. The ship will remain in lockdown throughout Thursday, and beyond that is unknown. Today is election day.

Every billboard, concrete wall and pole in the city is plastered with political posters, mostly endorsing one man, the current president. I must tread lightly here, because Mercy Ships has been graciously welcomed and hosted by the Togolese government, and we are strongly encouraged to consider this when writing in the public domain. From conversations with our translators and local friends, though, I’d be willing to put a fat stack of cash on the current president claiming victory. Legitimately? You can do your own research.

What we do know is that elections in Togo have produced violence in the recent past. Most opinions I have heard about this election predict relative peace, but it is smart for this organization to be overly cautious. Many international NGOs in Lomé are monitoring the situation. If things get really sticky, we can quickly load the Land Rovers and dockside equipment and sail out within hours: the benefit of a boat-based mission!

The eye team plans to hold our Friday clinic tomorrow, but that will depend entirely upon the security situation overnight. After a security update at 6 am, our 8 translators will call me to check on the status…assuming the cellular network is running. Togo Cell, the country’s main provider, is operated by–you guessed it!–the government, and they switch it off at times to make it more difficult to organize riots. We are also subject to the ban on road traffic in place today, and possibly tomorrow, for nonessential vehicles.

So while the president’s supporters and the opposition parade today in white and yellow, respectively, tooting car horns and filling the dusty streets, I am enjoying a quiet day in the AC, for once far from the masses.


One Response to “Elections”

  1. Shanthi Jayakumar said

    Thank you for writing.For the most part, we seem to take democracy for granted in this country. Looking at the low voter turn-outs in our recent state wide elections, I am curious to know what the turn-out is in Togo. When you have some numbers, I would like to know.
    Take care and observe curfews!!!

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