Lome – Togo’s opposition on Wednesday refused to cancel two protests planned for next week, despite a government ban on political marches on weekdays.
Fourteen parties called on their supporters to take to the streets against President Faure Gnassingbe next Wednesday and Thursday.
“Wednesday’s march will end on the esplanade outside the National Assembly,” the spokesperson for the main opposition National Alliance for Change (ANC), Eric Dupuy, told AFP.
“The one on the 19th (Thursday), will finish outside the Ecowas offices,” he added, referring to the West African regional bloc.
Dupuy maintained the opposition had given proper notification for the demonstrations, as required in law.
“If the government decides to break the law, the people will not respect it,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, Togo’s minister of territorial administration, Payadowa Boukpessi, announced that political marches would now be banned from Monday to Friday.
People would still be able to meet in a “fixed spot” and march at weekends.
The decision was taken to prevent “violence” and a recurrence of calls for civil disobedience, economic sabotage and even murder against the government, he told a news conference.
Next week’s planned demonstrations will be the latest in a series since late August that have morphed from a push for constitutional change to calls for Gnassingbe to step down.
At least four people have been killed and dozens more injured in the protests, particularly in the north.
Hundreds of others have sought refuge in neighbouring Ghana from what they claim is arbitrary arrest and violence on the part of the security forces.
Gnassingbe has been president since 2005, taking over after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years with an iron fist.
Opposition parties want a limit of two, five-year terms on presidents in line with standard practice across West Africa.
Gnassingbe, who is in his third term, and his government have proposed new legislation to that effect.
But the opposition has complained that the measure is not retroactive, raising the prospect the president could remain in office beyond the next elections in 2020 and 2025.
A referendum is due to be held on the proposal in the coming months.