Teachers strike in Togo: over 100 teachers dismissed, trade unionists arrested
Association & Peaceful Assembly
Teachers strike: teachers dismissed, trade unionists arrested
On 24th and 25th March 2022, the trade union Syndicat des enseignants du Togo (Teachers Union of Togo, SET) organised a strike in the education sector to demand a monthly housing allowance for any teacher without distinction in accordance with the 1975 education reform, a distance allowance and a transfer allowance, among others. The strike is considered illegal by the Togolese government, as SET is not considered by authorities as having been legally constituted, which is refuted by the trade union and civil society organisations.
Following the strike, on 30th March 2022, the Minister of Civil Service, Labour and Social Dialogue, Gilbert Bawara signed a ministerial decree dismissing from the profession 137 teachers, who participated in the strike, as they "continued to show an attitude of defiance towards the authority of the State”. The Minister of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education, Dodzi Komla Kokoroko had already threatened that "those who persist in disturbing the education sector will be purely and simply excluded from the teaching function and placed at the disposal of the civil service". This was not the first time that authorities have taken this kind of punitive action against those striking in the education sector: in November 2021, 1,192 school directors were demoted and replaced following a 48 hour strike. The SET announced further strikes from 29th to 31st March 2022, from 4th to 7th April 2022 and a sit-in. On 5th April 2022, Bawara dismissed another seven teachers following the 4th April strike.
The strike came against the backdrop of the approval, by the Council of Ministers on 23rd February 2022, of two draft decrees pursuant to the Labour Code. One draft decree aims "to update, clarify and consolidate the regulations on the representativeness of professional unions and the management of collective labour conflicts" while the other draft decree defines the attribution, organisation and functioning of the National Labour Council (CNT), from which the SET is excluded according to the terms.
From 31st March, following the strike and the dismissal of teachers by authorities, students in several localities started toprotest to demand a return of teachers to the class rooms. Some of the protests turned violent and acts of vandalism were committed. According to media reports, one school in Gando was provisionally closed due to the protests. In a radio interview, Minister of Security and Civilian Protection, General Yark Damehane, said that he had given instructions to the security forces to intervene, and use tear gas if there was violence during the protest.
Trade unionists arrested
On 8th April 2022, officers of the Service Centre for Criminal Investigation and Investigation (SCRIC) arrested three SET trade unionists, namely Kossi Kossikan, Deputy Secretary General, Joseph Toyou, Regional Secretary of Savane and Ditorga Sambara Bayamina, Prefectoral Delegate of Grand Lomé. The three are accused of having incited students and others to revolt, by promises, threats, orders or any signs of rallying.
On 6th April 2022, Togo's national media regulator, Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC), suspended the bi-monthly media outlet Le Détective for a period of four months following a defamation complaint by Afi Xolali Pascaline Dangbuie, who heads the Network of Associations of the Adidogom Market (RAMAA). The complaint was made in relation to an article published by the media outlet in its edition of 23rd March 2022, which the HAAC considered as having violated the rules of professional conduct and ethics for journalists in the discrediting of Dangbuie. The outlet's editor, Messan Edoh-Semegnon, was heard by the HAAC on 30th March 2022, with the HAAC stating in its decision that the editor could not provide evidence of the truthfulness of the facts in its publication and therefore these breaches are “constitutive of the rules of violation of the professional conduct and ethics of the profession of journalist".