Togo Police Fire Teargas as Opposition Vows to Press Protests

  • Opposition parties reject proposed constitutional changes
  • Shops, businesses closed in Lome as government bans rallies

Togolese police fired teargas to disperse opposition supporters in the capital protesting against constitutional changes they say will enable President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his rule, in continuing unrest a day after three people were killed in clashes in the West Africa nation.

The heavy police presence in Lome to enforce a government ban on weekday marches failed to subdue the demonstrators, who tried to erect barricades across the capital, while shops and businesses remained closed.

“We’re not going to just sit back, we’re going to protest today and tomorrow no matter what,” Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo, a spokeswoman for the opposition, said by phone on Wednesday.

Political tension has run high in the tiny nation of 8 million people since parliament adopted draft legislation to limit the number of presidential terms to two and change the voting system, paving the way for a national referendum on the issue. A coalition of opposition parties has rejected the proposal because its changes to the constitution aren’t retroactive and would enable Gnassingbe to extend his rule by at least 10 years. Togo has been governed by Gnassingbe since the 2005 death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who seized power in a 1967 coup. A date for the referendum hasn’t been set.

Two towns in northern Togo were gripped by violence Tuesday following the arrest of an influential Muslim leader who’s a member of an opposition party that has led protests against the government since August. He was detained because he held a sermon last week in which he incited his followers to kill military officials, according to the government.

Two military personnel who were deployed as guards at the house of a senior official in the town of Sokode, 330 kilometers (205 miles) north of the capital, were beaten up and executed, and a third person died in unspecified circumstances, the government said.

Last week, the Togolese government banned street protests on working days, saying demonstrations can only be held on weekends.

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