Faure must go: How one Togolese woman is risking her life to end the 50-year Gnassingbé dynasty

The 28-year-old Togolese activist is risking her life to fight for democracy in her country.

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  • Nabourema founded the 'Faure Must Go' movement at age 20

(CNN)For Farida Nabourema, fighting for democracy in her country has come at a high price; she's had to sacrifice her family, friends and her safety.

Nabourema has lived in exile from her childhood home of Togo for 10 years after speaking out against the regime of Faure Gnassingbé, whose family has ruled the West African nation for more than 50 years.
    During the Gnassingbé dynasty, Togo became one of the world's poorest countries and a place characterized by a crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent.
      The US State Department recently raised deep concerns about rising levels of violence in the country and restrictions on free speech.
      Nabourema had an early introduction to the regime's brutal tactics when her father was arrested in 2003 for opposing the regime, she says.
      Bemba Nabourema was a student activist in the 1970s calling for political change in the country.
        Togo was then ruled by the current president's father, Gnassingbé Eyadema, who came to power in a 1967 coup, seven years after the country's independence from France.
        "Every day during his rule people had to queue from the military camp, where he lived, to the presidential palace to clap for him in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening," Nabourema says.
        Nabourema recalls her father's experiences at the hands of the elder Gnassingbe.
        Her father was first arrested in 1977 for distributing pamphlets calling for political change.
        "In 1985 my father was arrested again. He had electric cords wrapped on his genitalia and was tortured 'til he lost his voice. When he lost his voice, a soldier said 'He is not screaming anymore probably because he was not feeling the pain anymore.' So they started hitting him 'til they broke 13 of his ribs."
        He continued to have run-ins with the law.
        Farida and her father (far right) at a rally in Lome, Togo, January 2008
        In 2003, when Nabourema was 13, her father was arrested along with 28 others, for attending a meeting to discuss opposition to Gnassingbé.
        He was released three days later but the message was clear. He was expected to live in silence under the shadow of an oppressive regime.

        Faure Must Go

        In 2005, Eyadema Gnassingbé died after ruling Togo for 38 years. Many Togolese were hopeful for change, but he was immediately succeeded by his son, Faure Gnassingbé, in what the African Union and rights groups called a coup.
        "Even though I was 15 years old, the powerlessness in the face of injustice revolted me to the extreme," Nabourema says.
        She joined her father's political party, Union of Force for Change, (UFC) and started attending opposition rallies.
        Three years later, she left Togo to study in the United States, and in 2011 she co-founded the Faure Must Go movement that has since become a hallmark of the Togolese people's struggle.
        Her family members were immediately threatened by government loyalists and they became frightened for their safety.
        "My siblings who I was living with at the time asked me to leave. I was 20 years old, in a foreign country but I pulled through and never allowed it to pull me down."

        Born ready for a revolution

        Togo lies between Ghana and Benin on the west coast of Africa and around 60 percent of its population is under 25 and many of them have only known one ruler.