Togolese opposition mobilise against election delays


Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé

from ESSIE KOMBATE in Lome, Togo
LOME, (CAJ News) – THE West African country of Togo is on a knife edge after the government announced the postponement of legislative and regional elections to April 29.

It faces its most severe protests in recent years, with the campaign officially running from this coming Saturday until April 27.

The government of President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé has banned opposition protests scheduled for Thursday (today) until Saturday.

Opposition groupings, the largest being the Dynamics for the Majority of the People (DMP), have stated that they will still demonstrate nonetheless in response to recent constitutional changes and the delay of the polls that were initially scheduled for April 13, then the 20th.

In the capital Lome, participants were on Thursday gathering at the Be Gakpoto roundabout. They were scheduled to march towards the Assemblees de Dieu church in the largely Christian nation.

“Campaign activities will likely be well attended,” said a security source.

There has been heightened security in the capital city, with road traffic and business disruptions forecast.

Clashes with security forces or opposing rival activists are feared.

“Claims of fraud in the aftermath of the results may also inflame tensions,” the security source warned.

Opponents accuse Gnassingbé (57), who took over power in 2005 after the death of his father (of a similar name), of rigging polls to stay in power.

Gnassingbé senior was in power since 1967, seven years after independence from France.

Opposition parties are riled by the ruling party Union of the Republic (URE)-dominated Parliament adopting a new constitution on March 25.

The constitutional amendment transitions the country from a presidential to a parliamentary system. This could potentially extend the younger Gnassingbé’s presidency to at least 2030.

Some opposition groups have denounced the move as a “constitutional coup.”

Farida Bemba Nabourema, the human rights activist, accuses Gnassingbé of running Togo “like his father’s kiosk.”

“We Togolese citizens know all the tricks of this regime that has always used fraud and violence to maintain itself in power,” she said.

Up to 400 people were killed in the violence surrounding the presidential elections of 2005.

Anti-government protests also preceded the 2020 elections, in which Gnassingbé was announced the winner with 72 percent, for a fourth term.

At the commemoration of the Muslim Eid El-Fitr festivities this week, the president appealed for peace in the country of 9 million people.

– CAJ News

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