Oct 18, 2021

Charles Kormi Kudzorzi, leading figure of Western Togoland's self-determination movement, passes away aged 88

UNPO is sad to learn of the death of a great campaigner for peaceful self-determination in West Africa, Charles Kormi Kudzorzi "Papavi", who died at the age of 88 in St Paul’s hospital, Aksthi South, Volta Region in Ghana. For much of his life Mr Kudzorzi campaigned tirelessly for the self-determination of Western Togoland, and respect for Human Rights in the region as a whole.

Mr Kudzorzi was the President of the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF), the member representing Western Togoland at UNPO. He founded the HSGF in 1994 as a platform to discuss the human rights and political situation of the people of Western Togoland, largely situated in, but not limited to, the Volta Administrative Region in Ghana. It was under his leadership of the HSGF that Western Togoland as a member was admitted to UNPO in 2017.

Mr Kudzorzi was affectionately known as “Papavi” by his peers. His motivation for advocating Western Togoland self-determination stems from a perceived injustice in what was a merger of the ex-German colony of the Volta Region into the British Gold Coast colony – later known as Ghana - after the Treaty of Versailles in WW1. During the decolonisation period after WW2, the Volta Region had a referendum on a protracted federal Union with the newly formed Ghanean state. Promises of decentralisation and respect for the majority Ewe people and their language in the Volta region were not kept though, and in 1994 Mr Kudzorzi started the HSGF to promote a dialogue among Western Togolanders about the future of the state.

A member of the Ghana parliament paid tribute to Mr Kudzorzi, saying that despite having opposing views on the nature of Ghana, Mr Kudzorzi had tirelessly worked to improve and develop the Volta Region and avoid it becoming a peripheral region in West Africa. Previously members of the opposition NDC party had, despite also having opposing views, harshly criticized the Ghanean government’s militarization of the Volta Region and intimidation tactics against HSGF members like Mr Kudzorzi.

Throughout his latter years of campaigning, Mr Kudzorzi was systematically arrested by Ghana authorities for ‘secessionist activities’. He, as well as many other HSGF activists, were subject to a campaign of arrest and re-release in order to keep them interned for as long as possible, and disrupt their activities. Despite this, the courts in Accra seldom found that Mr Kudzorzi and HSGF had broken the law or attempted a violent overthrow. Nevertheless, Ghana continued to break Article 4 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Luanda Guidelines on Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa by arresting members of the HSGF without informing them of their charges, releasing them after a legal expiration period, only to arrest them again on their way out.

Mr Kudzorzi’s tireless campaigning despite these obstacles is a testament to his passion for his homeland and positive view of self-determination as a human right. His life stands as a lesson for all those in Western Togoland and around the world committed to pursuing self-determination through non-violence. UNPO extends condolences to his close family, colleagues, friends and the Western Togoland community as a whole.