LOME, Togo — Thousands of people in Togo took to the streets Wednesday to demand presidential term limits as anger grows in the small West African nation over the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family.
Internet service was down and phone connections were sporadic, but that didn’t stop the scheduled demonstrations aimed at preventing President Faure Gnassingbe from running for a fourth term in 2020 elections.
Security forces killed at least two people and injured several others during similar demonstrations in August, Amnesty International said. Dozens were sent to prison for up to 60 months, according to the human rights group.
The government condemned the August protests, with the interior minister calling them extremist.
A coalition of opposition parties called for the demonstrations. While Gnassingbe has not said he would run again in 2020, the opposition National Panafrican Party has said it suspects he will not quit power unless compelled to step down.
Gnassingbe’s father, Eyadema, ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. Before his death, he modified the constitution to extend his rule. The constitution had allowed for only two presidential terms.
“We have been asking for political reforms since Faure Gnassingbe came to power in 2005 but he managed to dodge us since then,” said Tikpi Atchadam, who leads the National Panafrican Party. “Now we are simply demanding a return to the 1992 constitution.”
Wednesday’s protests took place in the capital, Lome, and in other cities as well as in Ghana and Gabon.
The government announced late Tuesday that it had drafted a constitutional amendment for the limitation of mandates, calling it an initiative “to favor the preservation of a climate of peace and serenity.”
Two years ago a similar bill was rejected in Parliament, where the ruling party holds a majority of seats.
“(The president) can deceive us once or twice, but he is not going to deceive us again this time around,” said opposition leader Jean Pierre Fabre, who led Wednesday’s protests.