Togolese are ready to commit to citizen control following decentralization

Togolese are ready to commit to citizen control following decentralization

After a break of several decades in the process of decentralization, Togo remains within the space of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the only country where decentralization is not yet effective and where local authorities whose mayors are still appointed by the executive. This situation persists despite a legal framework providing for decentralization. Beyond the legal framework, decentralization in Togo has also been one of the commitments made on several occasions by the Togolese political class, in particular in 2004 before the European Union (GIZ-Togo, 2016; CGDPC, 2017) and in 2006 during the Global Political Agreement (CGDPC, 2017). It has recently experienced an acceleration with the adoption of the new division of the territory into municipalities (Law No. 2017-008 of June 29, 2017).

Citizen control of the action of local authorities

Almost half (45%) of Togolese believe that it is the voters in the first place who must ensure that the municipal/communal councilors do their job, far ahead of the other institutional mechanisms which are the National Assembly/the local community (23%) and the Presidency/Executive (18%). Six in 10 Togolese (62%) say they are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to attend public meetings organized by their commune to understand how taxpayers' funds are used or to influence council actions communal. The level of education does not seem to play any role in this choice of participation. Finally, the Maritime (70%), Central (69%), Kara (66%), and Savanes (64%) regions have the populations with the highest propensity to participate in communal meetings.

Satisfaction with the division into municipalities

The major finding that stems from the data collected is that the Togolese are not informed about the new division into municipalities of the national territory, and among those who are informed, there are as many satisfied as unsatisfied. Thus, on the one hand, 43% of Togolese say they have not heard enough about it to comment on it. On the other hand, 29% say they are not satisfied with the cutting done against 28% who are satisfied.

Lack of contact with local authorities

Togolese rarely contact their local authorities for a problem or to discuss their ideas. More than nine in 10 Togolese say they have not contacted a political party leader (94%) or prefectural/municipal councilor (93%) in the 12 months preceding the survey. More than two-thirds affirm the same lack of contact with traditional chiefs (73%) and religious leaders (67%).

Community actions

In the 12 months leading up to the survey, Togolese have taken little community action to express any dissatisfaction with the government, but they seem to remain open to doing so. Indeed, just 7% of Togolese claim to have refused to pay a royalty or tax to the state in the last 12 months. Similarly, just 11% say they participated in a demonstration or protest march. Additionally, we note 20% of Togolese who say they have joined with others to request government intervention in the past 12 months, 14% have contacted the media, and 11% have contacted a government official to request help or complain.

Low trust in two key institutions in decentralization

Decentralization is par excellence the bringing together of the management of the communities themselves. If this process of reconciliation can be done in different ways, one of the most used is the election of local leaders. But local elected officials will only have the legitimacy of their constituents if the latter have confidence in the electoral process. Confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) deeply divides the Togolese. Thus 46% of Togolese say they do not "trust the CENI at all". On the other hand, 34% of Togolese say they have "just a little" or "partial" confidence in the CENI, and only 12% say they have "a lot" of confidence in it, i.e. a total of 46% of Togolese who say they have at least less confidence in the institution in charge of organizing the elections.

What can motivate the lack of contacts and distrust of local institutions?

Having decentralized and even legitimate institutions may not be enough to drive the effective action implied by decentralization. Indeed, after the establishment of these institutions, their appropriation by the local populations is a key element of its success in solving the problems at the base. This appropriation involves the use of and trust in these institutions. For the time being, many challenges stand on this appropriation and are called the perception of corruption, the lack of listening to the populations, and even the performance of these institutions. Thus, municipal/communal councilors are strongly perceived as corrupt. Indeed, 47% of Togolese find that "all" or "most" of these advisers are corrupt. Thus, according to 83% of the population, municipal/communal councilors are involved in some way in acts of corruption. Beyond the perception of corruption of the municipal/communal councillors, the latter are also perceived as not making an effort to listen to what the populations have to say to them. Only 13% of Togolese find that municipal/communal councilors “often” or “always” make efforts to listen to what people have to say to them. This feeling of absence or insufficiency of listening depends very little on the place of residence, gender, or level of education. Togolese populations are also unhappy with the performance of their local authorities. Nearly six in 10 Togolese (58%) 'disagree' or 'strongly disagree' with how their prefectural/municipal councilors have done their jobs in the past 12 months before the survey, compared to three Togolese out of 10 (31%) who “agree” or “strongly agree”. These criticisms of performance are more observed in the Maritime region (70%), in urban areas (65%), and among men (61%). The performance of prefects/mayors is also singled out by the majority (53%) of Togolese. It is the inhabitants of urban areas (62%), those of the Maritime region (62%), and men (56%) who are the most critical of the performance of prefects/mayors.

The Togolese show a very good disposition to engage in citizen control in the event of decentralization, even if the latter are not very involved for the moment because in the current political system the local authorities are not beholden to them. Taking into account the positive skills of the Togolese in terms of citizen control through adequate mechanisms in decentralization will make it possible to really transform them into watchdogs to hope for greater efficiency at the base and better local development.

See more: