UNPO Calls for Dialogue and Non-Violence in Western Togoland
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization urges the people of Western Togoland not to fall prey to organizations seeking to use violent means to acheive independent statehood. Those using such tactics should be appropriately dealt with by the criminal justice authorites, while the government of Ghana should create space for non-violent, rights-respecting movements such as the Homeland Study Group Foundation to continue to exercise rights of peaceful assembly and to engage in political dialogue and negotiation.
On 25 September 2020 a group known as the Western Togoland Restoration Front (WTRF) unilaterally declared an independent state in the Volta region of Ghana using armed road blockades and, according to media reports, attacking police stations and personnel. Immediately after, the WTRF issued a press release “emphatically stat[ing] that Homeland Study Group Foundation has no hand in the Road Blocks” in an apparent attempt to build the WTRF supporter base in contrast to the Homeland Study Group Foundation’s.
The Homeland Study Group Foundation, a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, is a civil society movement in Ghana that seeks independence for the Western Togoland region, a historically separate region, using non-violent means focused of protest and negotiation. Since mid-2019, as the movement around the Homeland Study Group Foundation grew, the authorities have enacted a series of sweeping arrests and detentions, first of seven Homeland Study Group Foundation leadership and then of some 80 citizens protesting their detention, using high crimes such as treason as the basis for the arrests. These charges have been dropped and mostly all detained have been released though some 14 people remain in detention under lesser charges.
What we are witnessing in Western Togoland today appears to be a direct consequence of these actions. As we have seen in countless situations around the world over the 30 years of the UNPO’s history, by targeting and refusing to engage with non-violent, right-respecting movements, countries push people with genuine grievances related to the realization of their economic, social and cultural and civil and political rights towards more radical and potentially dangerous elements who use violent tactics to attempt to differentiate themselves from non-violent movements.
While the right to self-determination does not grant an automatic right to independent statehood of any peoples who seek it, the right to believe in and seek independent statehood through non-violent and lawful means is protected under international human rights law. Persecuting that freely-held belief serves no practical purpose and can only lead to increased resentment and instability, as we appear to be witnessing in Western Togoland today.
The UNPO urges the people of the Western Togoland not to fall prey to organizations seeking independence for Western Togoland by violent means and supports efforts to ensure that those using such tactics are appropriately dealt with by criminal justice authorities.
It calls for cessation of any remaining criminal justice actions against people merely for exercising their rights to freedom of speech, assembly and opinion.
It further calls for the government of Ghana to re-open engagement with the Homeland Study Group Foundation and provide a means for negotiation and dialogue with them and the people of Western Togoland to determine how their self-determination can be better realized through democratic means respecting the equal rights to self-determination of all the peoples of Ghana.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons