Togo’s protesters

WEST AFRICA –––Authorities in Togo on Monday said President Faure Gnassingbe’s government was working towards initiating talks with its political opponents after more than two months of protests calling for the resignation of the president.

President Gnassingbe has been president of the tiny West Africa nation since 2005 when he took over from his late father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years and later died in office. In recent days, the government has appeared more conciliatory and has lifted restrictions on weekday protests and proposed having rights groups as observers during demonstrations to keep trouble at bay.

According to a statement read on national television, a spokesman for the government said it was hoped “that all this will lead the political parties concerned to act with the greatest restraint and responsibility and to work for the national interest by the safeguarding of peace and national cohesion”.

Yaovi Attigbe Ihou, the industry and tourism minister, said the Gnassingbe’s administration was “taking the necessary measures for the opening of a dialogue in Lome with all of Togo’s political class”.

The government also said it was keen to preserve the right to protest and to restore calm by finding a “credible and durable solution to the question of political reforms.”

Analysts say the government seems to be listening to international concerns as well as the gravity of any blowback from any potential crisis.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS, of which the Togolese leader is the current chairperson, has urged dialogue between the two sides.

Togo’s former colonial power, France, was one of the few countries to have expressed serious concern about the clashes, as well as the use of militia alongside the government security services. According to reliable sources, at least 16 people have been killed so far across the country since August anti-government protest activities began.