Sunday 17 December 2017

Togo opposition says president's claim a 'declaration of war'

Togo opposition says president's claim a 'declaration of war'
(AFP 11/15/17)

Togo opposition leaders on Tuesday said President Faure Gnassingbe "declared war on the Togolese people" by accusing them of orchestrating violence in massive anti-government protests across the West African country.

At least 16 people have been killed and more than 200 injured since late August in a wave of street protests calling for Gnassingbe to step down and bring an end to more than 50 years of rule by his family.

On Friday, the president said organisers of the demonstrations "bear the heavy responsibility for the victims and the damage they caused".

He also restated his "total confidence" in the military to "respond to all threats or terrorist actions which may affect our nation".

At a news conference in capital Lome on Tuesday, the leaders of a coalition of 14 political parties said Gnassingbe's comments were "irresponsible, belligerent and unpatriotic" and intended to "sow the seeds of division and hatred with the aim of raising the army against the people".

They appealed for the support of the international community to establish a commission to investigate the "crimes that have taken place in Togo in the last few months".

The opposition has previously accused the authorities of "savage repression" of dissent in the north of the country while at the same time officially calling for dialogue.

They want a proposed two-term limit on the presidential mandate to be retroactive, so as to prevent Gnassingbe from standing again in 2020 and 2025.

He has been in power since 2005, taking over from his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the former French colony for 38 years.

Three more days of protests have been scheduled for next week.

Envoys from Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo met opposition leaders on Tuesday in a fresh attempt at mediation, said Fulbert Attisso, leader of the opposition Another Togo party.

Akufo-Addo visited Lome on November 5 for talks with Gnassingbe.

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