Thousands of Togolese nationals held demonstrations in about half a dozen cities around the world including the capital Lome where it turned deadly after clashes with security forces.
The demonstrations, organised by the opposition Pan African National Party (PNP), were held simultaneously in Accra, Libreville, New York and Berlin on Saturday demanding the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution that limits the term limit of the president.
Seven people were reportedly killed and several injured in the northern Togolese town of Sokode. According to the security minister, about a dozen gendarmes were also injured when the demonstrators overpowered them after they opened fire.
Besides the reinstatement of the constitution, the leader of the PNP party Tikpi Atchadam told the media that they want to immediately end the Gnassingbe dynasty which has ruled 50 years from father to son.
“It’s like a family property and we are ready to resist that this time,” he said.
President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005 after spending 38 years in office.
The 1992 constitution which stipulates a two five-year term limit for a president was set aside by a one-sided parliament for Faure to continue his third term bid in 2015.
The parliament is made up of about 98 per cent of the ruling Rally for the Togolese People (RPT) party members after a boycott of the opposition parties in the parliamentary elections.
That was the second time the constitution, that ushered in multi-party democracy, had been breached to favour the Gnassingbe family.
In 2005 when Eyadema died of heart attack, Faure, who was a minister at the time was sworn in as acting president by the military instead of the President of the National Assembly.
He resigned a few days later after pressure from the international and regional communities. Faure stood for the disputed 2005 elections months later and won, leading to deadly protests and displacement of thousands of people.
The elections were described as fraudulent by election observer groups.
The protests in 2005 were met with violence by the security forces leaving over a hundred people killed and several opposition members arrested.
The protest on August 19, 2017, saw a different trend as the demonstrators in Sokode managed to “arrest” some members of the security forces and seized their guns in the process.
Reports on the ground indicate that some of the protesters prevented the lynching of some of the security forces who sustained injuries.
The opposition has sworn to continue the protests until the end of the Gnassingbe dynasty. Faure’s mandate ends in 2020 and it is unclear if he will stand again for re-election.
He is currently the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).