French officer apologises to Togo journalist after video outrage
A video of a French army officer threatening a local journalist in Togo has led to accusations that colonial attitudes are not dead yet. Lieutenant-Colonel Romuald Létondot has been forced to apologise after being caught on camera intimidating photographer Didier Ledoux at a demonstration in Lomé on Tuesday.
The video of the altercation was published on the popular French left-wing website Rue 89 on Wednesday and had been viewed close to 200,000 times by early Thursday.
In the video, an irate Létondot is seen confronting Ledoux and demanding he delete his photos.
“Do you know who I am?,” Létondot asks. “I’m the advisor to the chief of staff of the army. Do you want me to call the RCGP [Presidential Guard Commando Regiment] to sort this out? Then I’m asking you to delete the photos. Is that complicated?"
Later in the video, when Ledoux protests that he is only doing his job, Létondot turns to one of the Togolese gendarmes and says: “Book him."
Létondot, who will finish his tour in Togo in 15 days, apologised to Ledoux at the French embassy in the Togolese capital.
The officer told France 2 TV that the incident happened after demonstrators had thrown a stone at the military vehicle he was driving in.
“I showed the evidence to a Togolese gendarme when I realised I’d been photographed and that this photograph could have been misinterpreted, which was the case. I got angry, my intention being to prevent a photo being taken without permission.”
The army, the French Ministry of Defence and the French Foreign Ministry have all condemned Létondot’s actions.
The incident raised concerns that the image of the French army, which has thousands of soldiers and advisors based in some of its former colonies in Africa, could suffer.
Togo, a west African country situated between Ghana and Benin, gained independence from France in 1960.