The tragic death of AKA

The circumstances of the death - The statements of the Togolese authorities - The findings of the autopsy reports

The circumstances of the death of AKA

The lifeless body of Atsutsè Kokouvi Agbobli (AKA), historian, journalist, former minister and president of the Movement for National Development (MODENA), Togolese opposition party, was found by a fisherman on Friday August 15th 2008 on a Lomé’s beach near the place called the "Foyer des Marins" at around 10 a.m. Face down with upper extremities flexed, eyes bloodshot, bloody lips and forehead marred by bruises, the remains of AKA were not wearing any personal effects with the exception of his socks and moccasins.

According to his driver, AKA was last seen on Thursday August 14th 2008 at around 4.30 a.m. when he dropped him on the sea front a hundred meters from hotel Mercure Sarakawa.

The military physician, Commander Afatsawo, who arrived on the scene to certify the decease estimates the death between 3.30 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. on Friday August 15th 2008.

The Minister of Security and Civil Protection, Colonel Atcha Titikpina, former head of the presidential guard of General Gnassingbe Eyadema, said in a statement read on national television on Friday August 15th 2008 that the body of AKA was "rejected by sea" (see
the full release).

This hypothesis is formally denied by the findings of the autopsy report of Professor Gado Napo-Koura, MD, Professor at the Joint Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Lomé, called upon by the prosecutor at the Court of First Instance of First Class of Lomé. He states that "this is not a death by drowning" and "the hypothesis of a probable toxic death, drug intoxication [...] remains plausible" without conducting the appropriate toxicological analyses required to determine the chemical nature of substances which caused the death.

On proposal of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (OHCHR) and after the agreement of the family of AKA, a second autopsy was conducted by Dr. Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County, Texas (USA) acting on behalf of the non-governmental organization Physicians for Human Rights, which concluded that "death is not due to acute drug intoxication" or to "traumatic injuries" but more likely a drowning knowing "that [a] diagnosis of drowning in the absence of reliable eyewitness account can only be made by exclusion" of other hypotheses. The second autopsy report also underscores the "enigma" of the discovery of the body "naked on the beach" with the exception of his moccasins and socks.

This enigma is added to the mystery of the disappearance of AKA between Thursday August 14th at around 4.30 a.m. and his death on Friday August 15th between 3.30 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., the lapse of time of more than two hours and a half between the alleged drop of AKA on to the beach by his driver and the alert of the family by the latter, the negligence of Clinic Biasa which enabled the alleged "medical escape" of AKA and the disturbing phone conversation between Togo Head of State and Maurille Agbobli, AKA's brother and member of the ruling party, on Friday August 15th 2008 early in the morning during which Faure Gnassingbé "presents his condolences "in advance" in case AKA is found dead..." (See article of Africa International No. 424 october 2008 - in French).

The statements of the Togolese authorities

The statement of the Minister of Security and Civil Protection

During national television evening news on August 15th 2008, the Minister of Safety and Civil Protection released the following statement:

"On August 13th 2008, at approximately 12.00 a.m., Minister Atsutsè Agbobli, was admitted to Clinic BIASA, following the absorption of substances harmful to health in order to commit suicide.

After a treatment that relieved him, he fell asleep until nightfall.

Against all odds, Minister Agbobli discreetly leaves the clinic yesterday at 4 a.m., without authorization from the doctor, asking his driver to drive him to hotel Mercure Sarakawa, after a short stop at Hotel Palm Beach. Along the way, and around 100 meters before hotel Sarakawa he requires and gets off the vehicle to continue by foot.

Given his strange conduct, the driver decides to contact his family immediately.

Alerted, the national gendarmerie also joined the family, immediately engaging in research on site.

Minister Atsutsè Agbobli was not found until today at 10.00 a.m. when a body rejected by sea has proved to be his after identification.

Lomé, August 15th 2008.
Minister of Security and Civil Protection
Colonel Atcha Titikpina"

Extracts of the press conference of the prosecutor of Lomé on August 18th 2008.

"The President of MODENA is not dead of drowning or violent death, but rather drug intoxication, the nature and composition of the elements are not known yet. However, the autopsy also revealed that injuries to the face of Mr. Agbobli are caused by a fall, but [...] are not serious [to be] the cause of the death."

The findings of the two autopsy reports

The findings of the first autopsy

In the autopsy report ordered by the prosecutor of Lomé, Professor Gado Napo-Koura, MD, Professor at the Joint Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Lomé states that:

"The following findings can be made from the forensic examination of the external autopsy of the body of AGBOBLI Atsutsè Kokouvi:
  • It is not a death by drowning.

  • The observed bruises on the forehead of the victim, without underlying bones or skull or face damage (verified on radiographs performed on the body on the day of its discovery), are not consistent with a violent death by assault or other voluntary or involuntary violence.

  • The hypothesis of a probable toxic death by drug intoxication due to the many substances the victim confessed to his physician he had taken to commit suicide (MK FIADJOE, MD, Clinic BIASA) remains plausible, the active metabolites of these substances, which may persist in the blood despite gastric lavage, should be sought in physiological fluids taken during the autopsy (gastric contents, blood and urine), they must also be found in the liquid of the stomach lavage and in the blood that served for the first medical analyses at Clinic BIASA. These samples which are the property of Clinic BIASA should also be made available for the toxicological expertise.

Histological examinations of the viscera will also be made.

Lomé, August 20th 2008
Professeur Gado Napo-Koura"

Findings of the second autopsy

"Senior Forensic Consultant for Physicians for Human Rights, Nizam Peerwani, MD, who conducted independent interviews, review of medical records as well as second autopsy on the remains of Minister AGBOBLI [on September 8th 2008] concluded:
  • Minister Atsutsè Kokouvi AGBOBLI sustained acute myocardial infarction prior to death. This was detected in just one histologic slide and was a localized lesion. Significant occlusive coronary atherosclerosis was present and this myocardial ischemic injury was most likely stress related. It is unlikely that this would have resulted in his death.

  • Death of Minister Atsutsè Kokouvi AGBOBLI was not from acute drug intoxication or traumatic injuries including strangulation, smothering, blunt or sharp force trauma or electrocution.

  • Finally, there are sufficient signs that indicate Minister Atsutsè Kokouvi AGBOBLI drowned to death. This is supported by presence of wrinkling of palms and soles, boggy oedematous lungs both grossly and microscopically as well as scene evidence of purging of frothy (“mousse”) fluid from the nostrils and or oral cavity. It is once again important to stress that diagnosis of drowning in the absence of reliable eyewitness account can only be made by exclusion.

  • Preponderance of evidence suggests that Minister AGBOBLI was depressed and had attempted suicide at least on one occasion. This investigation, however, cannot explain why the body was discovered naked on the beach – this remains an enigma.

Nizam Peerwani, MD
Senior Consultant
Physicians For Human Rights
Chief Medical Examiner, Tarrant County, Texas
November 4, 2008"