Police fire tear gas at protesters
LOME: Riot police fired tear gas at massive crowds gathered in Togo’s capital late on Thursday, breaking up the huge opposition protests against President Faure Gnassingbe’s regime.
Demonstrators, blowing whistles and waving Togo’s green, yellow and red flag, had said they were determined to stay in the streets “all night” but were finally made to disperse by security forces.
In Be, a working-class district of Lome, small groups of protesters set fire to barricades. “Faure, get out, you’re driving us mad,” shouted one young male demonstrator.
The rest of the city remained relatively quiet, even as many residents had set up makeshift barricades in the streets, using tyres and rocks.
The protesters, shouting “Liberate, liberate Togo!”, had marched calmly during the day on Wednesday and Thursday, but had been blocked from heading to the presidency.
Togo’s political opposition has long demanded the introduction of a two-round voting system and a limit to the number of terms a president can serve.
Mr Gnassingbe, who has repeatedly promised to look into the reforms but never implemented them, took power in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who was installed as head of state in 1967 after a military coup.
“We’re tired. Enough is enough,” said one woman who gave her name as Agnes, 64.
“I’ve known the same family since I was 14. Let’s liberate Togo so these children can see something else.”
Protesters are demanding constitutional reforms, including limiting the president to two terms in office and a two-round election vote.
“We are going to stay on the streets until he listens to us,” another protester, Jonas Badagbo, said.
“We want Faure to re-establish the 1992 constitution and him to leave office.”
Veteran political opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said he was moved by the thousands of people who had turned out for the protest.
“To see the Togolese people rise up as one is a source of great satisfaction,” he said. “I’m overcome with emotion.”
Observers say the scale of the protests is unprecedented, which explained the heavy security. One said there was “a lot of tension in the air”.
Protesters march in Lome on Wednesday to call for political reforms and the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.