Several thousand people have protested in the Togolese capital to call for constitutional change that would bar President Faure Gnassingbe from seeking a third term of office in next year's vote.

The Gnassingbe family has run the small West African nation since the current president's father took power in 1967.

It is in Faure Gnassingbe's interest to rule out a third term in order to avoid problems in this country.

Zeus Ajavon, Let's Save Togo

Friday's protest came a week after police in the capital Lome used teargas on opposition supporters who defied government orders not to march on the national assembly building.

Togo's Security and Civil Protection Ministry announced in a statement read on state television then that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent opposition demonstrators from reaching the parliament building

The opposition had called for a massive protest on Friday, but the turnout was smaller than last week's demonstration.

"It is in Faure Gnassingbe's interest to rule out a third term in order to avoid problems in this country," Zeus Ajavon, coordinator of Let's Save Togo, a coalition of opposition and civil society groups, told the AFP news agency.

The opposition has been pushing for a change to the country's constitution, which would limit a president to two, five-year terms of office. There is currently no limit.

But Gnassingbe has ruled out any change and said that the constitution in force would be upheld. Lawmakers had previously rejected a reform bill.

Gnassingbe was installed as president with army support when his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the West African nation for 38 years, died in 2005. Faure Gnassingbe stepped down under regional pressure but won an election months later and was re-elected for a second term in 2010.

The opposition in the country of about six million people disputed Faure Gnassingbe's election wins in 2005 and 2010 and have long called for institutional and political changes to be made, so far without success.

The then president of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, was forced to flee the country last month after tens of thousands took to the streets and set parliament ablaze in violent protests against efforts to extend his 27-year rule.

Source: Agencies