Thousands of protesters marched without incident in the Togolese capital Lome on Saturday after two days of rallies earlier in the week that saw clashes between demonstrators and police.
The opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo said more than 100 people were injured and 125 arrested during the rallies Tuesday and Wednesday that were dispersed with tear gas, with some demonstrators throwing rocks and burning tires in response.
Saturday’s march began in Lome’s Be Kpota neighborhood and proceeded peacefully to a city beach as security forces looked on.
A coalition member said that in line with a campaign of civil disobedience, organizers were ignoring official requests to give advance notice of rallies.
“Through this march, we want to show the illegitimate authorities that we no longer respect the law,” coalition member Pedro Amuzu said, decrying what he called a “permanent takeover by force” in the small west African state.
Let’s Save Togo announced plans to hold further marches followed by sit-ins at the independence square in Lome next week, setting up another potential showdown with the authorities who have previously ruled out demonstrations in prominent areas.
Those sit-ins would take place from Tuesday to Friday, coalition official Raphael Kpande-Adzare said.
Protesters have been seeking a delay in parliamentary elections to allow reforms to first take place, as well as the repeal of changes to electoral laws that they say the government pushed through.
Let’s Save Togo’s coordinator Zeus Ajavon called Thursday for an end to President Faure Gnassingbe’s government and urged Togolese to “disobey and organize.”
While the elections are expected to be held in October, no date has been set.
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.
[Aug. 22 protest file photo via AFP]