Jul 15, 2022

Western Togoland : UNPO Delivers UPR Submission on Ghana Crackdown of Self-Determination Activists

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has submitted a Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the subject of Ghana's crackdown of self-determination activists in Western Togoland. It follows our submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the case of Mr George Nyakpo and other like minded activists of the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF), subject to arbitrary arrests and release cycles designed to intimidate them. The HSGF was founded by the late Charles Kome Kudzorzi to advocate for a revision of the legality of the plebiscite that afforded Western Togoland to the Gold Coast (modern day Ghana). 

The Universal Periodic Review submission outlined that the Ghanean government was intent on criminalizing the HSGF activists by frequently charging them with treason or felony charges, arbitrarily arresting them and prohibiting their protests. The Ghanean authorities amalgmated the actions of HSGF activists with that of the Western Togoland Restoration Front, a seperate breakaway group that committed several acts of violence relating to blockading roads in the region.

Ghanean authorities refused to inform detainees such as Mr Nyakpo of the charges for their arrest despite Ghanean law requiring them to do so within 48 hours. Following his release, Mr Nyakpo was told by the prosecutor that he would be immediately arrested and placed back into detention if he spoke publicly or attended any meetings related to the issue of Western Togoland. This is a flagrant violation of not only Ghanean but international human rights norms regarding arbitrary arrest and detention. 

Free speech was also violated by the mere act of arresting HSGF for wearing items of clothing celebrating a symbolic independence declaration in 2017. Charles Kudzorzi, Martin Asianu Agbenu and Divine Odonkor were arrested for wearing T-shirts referring to said declaration. 8 other HSGF members were charged with treason, unlawful assembly and offensive conduct for a meeting. In Mr Nyakpo's case, a law dating back to the Ghanean dictatorship in the mid-1970s was used as justification for his arrest. 

Concerning still is the practice of Ghanean authorities to restrict voting and public participation in the provinces where the HSGF are active (notably the Volta region). Ghanean authorities have suspended the issueing of birth and death certificates required for voting in some areas and have deployed military personel in the Volta region where most of Western Togoland is located on grounds of national security and protecting the borders from Covid-19 infiltration. The presence of military personel at voting booths as a show of power and intimidation.

UNPO delivered a series of recommendations to rectify the grave situation of civic and political rights for self-determination activists in Ghana, including  

Affirmatively repeal the “Prohibited Organizations Act” of 1976, or otherwise bring the Act into conformity with their international obligations, in particular, with Article 1, 9(3), 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Cease the prosecution of George Nyakpo and other members of the Homeland Study Group Foundation under charges related to the Prohibited Organizations Act. Cease the practice of conducting mass arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders representing Western Togolanders, permitting them to continue to openly operate within the democratic system in Ghana. Guarantee the political participation rights of the Western Togoland people, upholding their right to vote and freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly, and association. Open a dialogue with the people of Western Togoland on their rights to self-determination.

We duly await the response of the UN Human Rights Council and Ghanean authorities to these reccomendations. Ghana is often upholded as an example of successful democracy in West Africa yet it still has many challenges to ensure self-determination activists are allowed a democratic, non-violent platform to express their concerns. We firmly believe at UNPO that criminalizing self-determination activists is counter-productive to ensuring better inter-community relations and overall peace at any unit of analysis.