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Protests in Togo continued as president chaired ECOWAS summit

Protesters in Togo’s capital, Lome

LAGOS, Nigeria –  As he chairs the Abuja summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), protesters clamoring for constitutional and democratic reform took to the streets of Togo’s capital Lome on Saturday to demand changes from the regime of President Faure Gnassingbe, who had been in Nigeria as chairman of a summit of West African leaders.

Anti-government demonstrations have taken place across the country every other week since August, luring thousands of protesters demanding the departure of Gnassingbe, who has governed the country for more than 15 years after the demise of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyedema, who has ruled the tiny West Africa country for four decades.

Gnassingbe currently heads the leadership of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as chairman of the regional bloc’s rotating Chairmanship.

While at the Abuja summit, ECOWAS issued a statement conveying “its concern at the persistent political tension in the Togolese Republic”.

Women and youth lead protest for constitutional and leadership change in Togo to end decades of one family rule.

The crisis in Togo was not the main reason nor an agenda issue for and at the Abuja summit, which addressed integrating Morocco into the regional bloc and the situation in Guinea-Bissau.

At the close of last week, the opposition coalition in Togo announced that Gnassingbe ECOWAS colleagues should “put everything in place so that at the Abuja summit, the regime that has governed the country for more than 50 years takes on board and finally accepts the alternation of power”.

The opposition groups which described Togo as an “unacceptable political anomaly” in the region, insisting that they will continue to push ahead with their demands.

“All institutions in the country are locked up in favor of a single family and… the ballot box has no meaning,” it added, warning that action was needed to prevent the situation becoming “uncontrollable”.

The group said Gnassingbe, whose father, General Gnassingbe Eyedema, ruled the country with iron fist for 38 years before Gnassingbe took over after his death in 2005, is subjecting Togo to conflict.

In a recent interview with Paris-based Jeune Afrique (Young Africa) Magazine published on Sunday, Gnassingbe refused to rule out running for president again.

“Constitutions are for the future, not the past,” he argued when asked about the opposition’s push for constitutional reforms to make presidential term limits apply retroactively.

Questioned whether he would be a candidate in 2020 elections, he said he was “not yet in a position to have a perspective”.

Meanwhile, the regional bloc, ECOWAS, has issued “an appeal to Togolese political stakeholders to fully commit in the shortest time possible to a broad dialogue with a spirit of compromise,” a release said.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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