Togo protesters demand constitutional reform

Protesters brandished placards denouncing President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has been in power for 50 years.

Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters have reportedly taken to the streets in several cities across Togo to call for constitutional reform, despite an apparent government concession to their demands.

Aime Adi, head of Amnesty International in the West African country, told AFP news agency on Wednesday that “at least 100,000” were demonstrating in the capital, Lome, with similar demonstrations taking place in some 10 other cities.

For his part, opposition party leader Jean-Pierre Fabre called the demonstrations “unprecedented” and estimated that “more than one million people” were on the streets of Lome.

The figures could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera. 

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Many protesters brandished placards denouncing the government of President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has been in power for the last 50 years, AFP reported.

Gnassingbe chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, which saw ministers approve plans for a bill about restrictions on terms in office and changes to the voting system.

The opposition has been calling for both since 2005 when Gnassingbe succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for nearly 40 years.

“This bill to modify the constitution concerns specifically the limitations of mandates and voting procedures,” said the government statement, referring to article 59 of the Constitution.

Parliament only returns from its summer break in October, and exact details of the proposals are vague.

Previous protests

Most of Togo’s opposition parties decided to come together in Lome and some 10 provincial cities on Wednesday, despite the government’s olive branch.

They are calling for an acceleration of constitutional reforms, including the limit on how many terms a president can serve, and the introduction of a two-round voting system.

“Unir (Unite, the president’s ruling party) calls for talks as soon as it is cornered,” said Tikpi Atchadam, the head of the Pan-African National Party, according to AFP.

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“I think the people have made up their mind because they’re fed up,” he added, calling on Gnassingbe to “leave by the front door”.

“I don’t believe in dialogue with the regime any more,” he said.

Hundreds of people were killed in 2005 during violent protests following the death of Gnassingbe Eyadema and the election victory of his son.

The president was re-elected in 2010 and 2015, although the opposition rejected the results.

Last month, at least two people were killed in anti-Gnassingbe protests in the city of Sokode, some 300km kilometres north of the capital, according to the security ministry.

Opposition leaders had put the death toll at seven. 

Source: News Agencies