Police fire tear gas at 'Save Togo' protest

Police disperse hundreds of people protesting against electoral changes outside French embassy in west African nation.

    Security forces in Togo have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters who had gathered in front of the French embassy, witnesses said.

    Togo, a former French colony, has been rocked by a series of violent protests in the past three weeks, organised by the opposition-led "Save Togo" campaign.

    The opposition wants to undo a change of voting rules adopted by the parliament, and is against a proposed change to the number of seats in the assembly ahead of a legislative election due in October.

    "The young people wanted the French ambassador to witness what is happening to Togo, that is why they went to the embassy," said Patrick Lawson, one of the co-ordinators of the "Save Togo" campaign.

    "The police did not let them. They fired teargas to disperse them."

    The street leading to the embassy in the capital Lome was littered with shoes, left behind by fleeing protesters, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

    "We were sitting in front of the embassy and singing when police and gendarmerie appeared and started firing tear gas in all directions. It was a stampede," said Darius Akouete who was among the protesters.

    Neither the government nor the French embassy were available for comments.

    'Slanted boundaries'

    Demonstrators had planned another rally at a stadium in Lome earlier on Thursday, but the venue and neighbourhood were sealed off by security forces.

    Clashes also reportedly spread to several other neighbourhoods in the capital.

    Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe came to power in flawed and violent 2005 elections following the death of his father.

    He was re-elected in a March 2010 poll, and he and his allies control more than 50 of the 81-seat parliament.

    The opposition say the country's constituency boundaries, which were redrawn in May, favour the ruling party and is challenging a move to increase from 81 to 91 the number of seats in parliament.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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