Togo president blames opposition for violence

A protester throws a brick as opposition parties supporters confront Togolese Security Forces during a demonstration against Togo's president on October 5, 2017 in Lome. PHOTO | MATTEO FRASCHINI KOFFI | AFP


Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe has accused the opposition of orchestrating violence that has killed at least 16 people in massive anti-government protests across the country.

Since the first protests began in late August more than 200 others have been injured as the opposition agitates for Gnassingbe to step down and the introduction of a two-term limit for presidents, applied retroactively to prevent him standing for re-election.

"Togo is currently disrupted by demonstrations, which, far from being peaceful as permitted by law, have often been extremely violent," said Gnassingbe, visiting the Temedja military camp, about 200 km (120 miles) north of Lome on Friday.

"Those who organise these events bear the heavy responsibility for the victims and the damage they caused," he said in a speech broadcast on national television.

Last month West African leaders made their first comments after two months of increasingly bloody violence, calling on the presidency and the opposition to sit down to talks.

France has called for an "immediate dialogue" between the two sides in its former colony, saying it was concerned by reports of civilian militia working alongside security forces.

The government has promised to hold a referendum to adopt reforms including a limitation of presidential terms, but the proposed change would not be retroactive, allowing Gnassingbe to run for polls in 2020 and 2025.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 and won three elections. His father General Gnassingbe Eyadema was president before him and ruled for 38 years.


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