Despite almost a week of protest, Constitutional reforms, for which protesters have been on the streets, did not form part of the Agenda for the Togolese Parliament today. This sparked further protest from opposition MP. 80 persons have been arrested as the country’s authorities shut down access to the internet.
Thousands of opposition supporters had taken to the streets in cities across Togo on Wednesday, calling for a constitutional reform.
Aime Adi, head of Amnesty International in the West African country, told sources that on Wednesday “at least 100,000” people were demonstrating in the capital, Lome, with similar demonstrations taking place in some 10 other cities.
For his part, opposition party leader Jean-Pierre Fabre called the demonstrations “unprecedented” and estimated that “more than one million people” were on the streets of Lome. The figures could not be independently verified by ETN24.
The protesters named, as part of their grievances, the need for an acceleration of constitutional reforms, including the limit on how many terms a President can serve, and the introduction of a two-round voting system.
The present President, President Faure Gnassingbe’s family has been in power for the last 50 years.
Gnassingbe chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, which saw ministers approve plans for a bill about restrictions on terms in office and changes to the voting system.
The opposition has been calling for this same constitutional reform since 2005 when Gnassingbe succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for nearly 40 years.
“This bill to modify the constitution concerns specifically the limitations of mandates and voting procedures,” said the government statement, referring to article 59 of the Constitution.
Parliament only returns from its summer break in October, and exact details of the proposals are vague.
While speaking on the issue, Tikpi Atchadam, the head of the Pan-African National Party said,
“I think the people have made up their mind because they’re fed up,” he added, calling on Gnassingbe to “leave by the front door”.
“I don’t believe in dialogue with the regime anymore,” he said.
Hundreds of people were killed in 2005 during violent protests following the death of Gnassingbe Eyadema and the election victory of his son, Faure.
The President was re-elected in 2010 and 2015, although the opposition rejected the results.
Last month, at least two people were killed in anti-Gnassingbe protests in the city of Sokode, some 300km kilometers north of the capital, according to the security ministry.
Opposition leaders had put the death toll at seven.