Po­lice fire tear gas at protesters

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

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”.

AFP

Protesters march in Lome on Wed­nes­day to call for po­lit­i­cal re­forms and the res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Faure Gnass­ingbe.

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