Protesters in Togo demand political change

PARIS, France –  Efforts by pro-democracy and human rights groups to bring an end to blood-line rule and dictatorship in Togo continue as thousands of protesters took to the streets in the country’s capital Lomé on Saturday, against incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe and his inherited government.

Mediators from Ghana and Guinea who are currently in the West African nation have announced that the Togolese government and the opposition will enter into talks on controversial constitutional reform on February 15, in a move which seeks to end the country’s current uncontrollable political stalemate.  Despite these assurances, pro-democracy groups staged the demonstration over the weekend as a sign of their determination to see Togo’s from Father to Son’s rule end.

Serious demonstrations against the government of President Gnassingbe have been growing for the past several months, and Togo has also been marred into strikes by teachers and health workers while opposition parties want to curb presidential terms to a maximum of two, five-year terms of office, and introduce a two-round voting system.

Incumbent president Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after taking over from his father, who ruled the country for 38 years.

Although the West African mediators on Friday said that the leaders of the 14 opposition parties in the country had agreed to “suspend” public protests, the oppositions meanwhile participated in the protests carried on with Saturday.

“It’s our constitutional right to protest. If we want to protest then we will, ” said opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre.

According to sources, the protesters blocked several key roads leading into the capital as they chanted slogans against the Gnassingbe’s government.

Kossi Djivo, a pro-democracy crusader said: “I don’t expect anything from the upcoming dialogue because the regime in place is not sincere.”

Last November, President Nana Akufo-Addo, from neighboring Ghana, and Guinea’s Alpha Conde who are leading mediation efforts called for both sides in Togo to enter into a talk, but the opposition coalition has demanded “measures for de-escalation”, including the release of detained prisoners and the withdrawal of security forces.