Togo: Who’s who in Faure Gnassingbé’s new security task force 

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Monday, 23 January 2023 10:56

Faced with repeated and sometimes deadly incursions by jihadist groups in the northern part of the country, Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé reshuffled the military high command on 22 December. Here are the Togolese men fighting behind the scenes against terrorism.

When Togo suffered its first deadly attack in Kpékpakand on the night of 10-11 May 2022, during which eight soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded, President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé took the country’s defence strategy into his own hands.

Since November 2021, the country has been the target of at least five attacks in the far north, a region plagued by incursions of jihadist fighters from across the border in Burkina Faso.

On 24 November, the Tiwoli locality was hit hard. According to the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which claimed responsibility, 16 people were left dead. Faced with this difficult situation, the head of state decided to reshuffle the military high command on 22 December.

The objective is, among other things, to improve coordination between the army and air force, and to reduce the number of defections within the ranks of the Forces Armées Togolaises, FAT (Togolese Armed Forces), which are facing significant difficulties on the ground.

Both Marguerite Essossimna Gnakadè, minister of the armed forces, and General Dadja Maganawé, the chief of general staff, lost their jobs (the former’s was attached to the presidency.)

Thanks to the military programming law adopted two years ago, the army will be allocated 722bn CFA francs ($1.2bn) worth of resources and equipment better adapted to threats emerging by 2025.

“We will do everything possible to defend the country under attack, […] the forces of evil will be defeated at Togo’s gates,” said the president in his speech to the nation. For this fight, he has surrounded himself with experienced and trusted men.

Général Tassounti Djato

The air force’s former chief of staff, this air brigadier general was appointed the FAT’s chief of general staff, after Général Dadja Maganawé was dismissed on 22 December. A fighter pilot trained in France, with 2,594 hours and 35 minutes of flight time, Tassounti Djato has the difficult task of restructuring the security apparatus in the northern part of the country, especially the Savannah region, which borders Burkina Faso and has been placed under emergency security.

The new ‘Cema’ will also have to increase the air force’s power to increase its surveillance of terrorist groups.

Colonel Kokou Oyome Kemence

Also promoted on 22 December, the new deputy chief of general staff will work to strengthen the FAT’s logistics and rapid intervention capabilities. The former head of the peacekeeping operations division will be in charge of ordering military equipment and ensure, under Djato’s authority, that orders are followed in the field.

Finally, he will support Colonels Avoumado Messan (commander of the first military region), Passou Tchakebera (second military region), Kassawa Kolemagah (the army’s chief of staff) and Amana Kodjo (the national gendarmerie’s director-general).

Colonel Kodjo Ekpé Apedoh

He is Gnassingbé’s new chief of staff. This position had been vacant ever since Brigadier General Adjitowou Komlan, who was appointed FAT’s inspector in September 2021, resigned.

The FAT’s former deputy chief of staff thus becomes the head of the presidential palace’s military cabinet and will serve as an interface between the head of state and the defence forces. He is well known in the garrisons and has been in the Régiment de Soutien et d’Appui (RSA).

Lieutenant-Colonel Latièmbé Kombate

He is the face of the fight against terrorism in northern Togo. He serves as both commander of the Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide (2nd BIR, which he had already led in 2014) and the Koundjoaré operation. He centralises all instructions from Gnassingbé and the general staff.

The former commander of the National Centre of Commando Training, (CNEC), from April 2002 to September 2010 and the Parachute Commando Regiment, (RPC), he graduated as part of the first class (1998) of the FAT’s École de Formation des Officiers (Officer’s Training School).

Colonel Tchamiè Somiyéabalo

At the head of the Groupement d’Intervention et de Lutte Antiterroriste (Gilat), an army corps placed directly under the head of state’s authority, Colonel Tchamiè Somiyéabalo is the operational arm of the Togolese army in the North. Composed of about 1,000 men, the Gilat operates throughout the country, is highly equipped and very mobile.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bidénam Halawi

Gnassingbé’s former aide-de-camp, to whom he remained close, Lieutenant Colonel Bidénam Halawi has been commander of Kara’s Centre National d’Instruction (CNI) since May 2022. He replaced Colonel Gnakoulamba Bayassim in this position.

In this role, he has been tasked with recruiting some 2,500 men to the FAT by 2023, as well as training them in the new methods used by armed gangs in order to better defeat them.

Yark Damehane

Minister of security and civil protection since 2012, and promoted in 2018 to brigadier general, Yark Damehane has been leading the Police Nationale reform. He enjoys the head of state’s full confidence. He has, among other things, changed some of the ranks’ names and created a new category of the divisional commissioner of exceptional class, the highest.

The École Nationale de la Police Nationale (National School of the National Police) has become the École Supérieure des Forces de Sécurité (Superior School of Security Forces). Its mission is to play an active role in training security service members and provide training for senior members of the national police force.