Saturday 25 November 2017

Rival protesters rally in Togo's capital

Rival protesters rally in Togo's capital
(AFP (eng) 09/20/17)
Protesters march during an anti-government demonstrations in Togo on September 7

Several thousand people thronged the streets of Togo's capital Wednesday after the ruling party urged supporters to march at the same time as planned opposition protests demanding the removal of President Faure Gnassingbe.

The rival demonstrations in Lome came after the opposition boycotted a vote Tuesday on constitutional reform which would have included a presidential term limit.

The opposition wanted the limit to apply retroactively so that Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005, could not run again in 2020.

After more than 100,000 people across the country turned out for opposition protests on September 6 and 7, more marches were planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said there would be "no respite" or "rest as long as Mr Gnassingbe is in power".

Presidential party Union for the Republic (UNIR) also urged a march in support of Gnassingbe, the scion of one of Africa's oldest political dynasties.

"It is a pleasure to be here," UNIR supporter Georgia, 34, told AFP.

"We are peaceful," she said on the beach in Lome, which remained quiet.

One young protester said he received 5,000 CFA francs (7.50 euros, $9) to participate in the pro-government rally.

"You think we're here for politics?" asked Justin, 17, to the approval of his friends.

The Togolese government has warned the opposition against the presence of "people of foreign nationalities looking to participate in acts of violence" during the marches.

Gnassingbe, whose family has been in power since 1967, has now won three elections, the results of which have been contested by the opposition.

The failure to pass the constitutional reform bill forced a referendum, which a member of the government said will be held in the coming months.

Half of Togo's population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, despite a GDP growth rate of five percent over the last three years.

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