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Togo opposition calls for new anti-government protests

TOGO PRESIDENT

Togo’s opposition parties on Thursday said they had shelved a planned meeting to discuss constitutional reform and instead called for the country’s biggest ever anti-government protests.

In a statement, they accused President Faure Gnassingbe and his government of resorting to “obstinacy and diversion” in response to growing calls for political change.

The coalition of 14 parties want a two-term limit on presidential mandates and the introduction of a two-round voting system.

They had been due to meet on Friday but instead called for “the biggest ever public mobilisation” against the regime next Wednesday and Thursday.

Last week, the government gave an apparent concession to the hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country by publishing a bill on political reform.

Gnassingbe took over as president in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled the tiny West African nation since 1967.

On Wednesday, the government called for “calm and restraint”, and denounced what it said was an “escalation of physical and verbal violence” bordering on a “call for rebellion”.

Parliament is expected to begin debating the reform bill on Friday.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS, of which Gnassingbe currently holds the rotating presidency, has called for dialogue between both sides.

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