Togo authorities clash with protesters for second day
August 23, 2012
Togolese security forces clashed with protesters in the capital Lome for a second straight day Wednesday, with officers firing tear gas on demonstrators who responded by throwing rocks and burning tyres.
Protest organizers reported that several dozen of their supporters were injured and arrested, adding that a third day of protests would not go ahead as planned on Thursday because the authorities had executed “a takeover by force”.
Roughly 2,000 people gathered in Lome for the second day of anti-government demonstrations organized by Let’s Save Togo, a coalition of civil society and opposition groups, ahead of parliamentary elections expected in October.
Security forces fired tear gas on protesters on the first day of rallies on Tuesday and did so again not long after Wednesday’s march began.
“The security forces cracked down on us. They beat us. It is a takeover by force. For us, it’s finished, there is nothing left to say,” Ajavon told journalists. “No demonstrations tomorrow.”
He said despite changing their protest route as demanded by the authorities, opposition supporters were still met with tear gas.
According to Ajavon, the government has demonstrated that it will not allow peaceful rallies and so the population must pursue other ways to bring about change. An AFP correspondent reported isolated violent exchanges between demonstrators and the security forces in Lome’s Be neighborhood earlier Wednesday, with opposition supporters throwing rocks and burning tyres.
Last week, the west African nation’s government banned street demonstrations in commercial centers, setting up a showdown with the coalition, which had already announced the protests.
The government says commercial centers were made off-limits because security and public order were difficult to maintain in such areas, but the opposition have denounced the move as a bid to stifle critics.
Some of the opposition are seeking a delay in the polls to let reforms take effect first, while others also want changes to the electoral code passed by parliament to be repealed on the grounds they were not made properly.
Togo has been run by the same family for more than four decades. Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005. Shortly after his death was announced, the military installed his son Faure Gnassingbe as president. He has since won elections in 2005 and 2010.