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Togo security forces fire tear gas, prevent march

Togolese security forces disperse youths after authorities disagree with planned route for protests; protests were to be first in series of demonstrations opposing president

AFP , Thursday 10 Jan 2013
Togo protests
Opposition protesters burn tires as they block a street with barricades in Togo's capital Lome. Police in Togo fired tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse opposition protesters in the capital Lome, as tensions over upcoming legislative elections boiled over (Photo: Reuters)
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Togolese security forces on Thursday fired tear gas at tyre-burning youths after preventing an opposition march considered illegal in the latest such confrontation ahead of upcoming elections.

Some 30 gendarmes and police occupied the Be area of Lome, where the march was to begin, after authorities disagreed with the planned route of the protest.

A small number of protesters showed up and authorities fired tear gas to disperse youths burning tyres in the surrounding area, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Territorial Administration Minister Gilbert Bawara had warned late Wednesday that the march itinerary would not be allowed.

An official with the coalition that was to lead the protest said a number of people were wounded and detained.

"The government has refused any rally and the area was locked down very early by security forces," said Raphael Kpande-Adzare. "We have registered some wounded and detained. We have not yet come up with a total."

Thursday was to be the first of three days of protests led by Let's Save Togo, a coalition of opposition and civil society groups seeking the departure of President Faure Gnassingbe and sweeping reforms.

Legislative elections were originally due in October, but they have been postponed amid disagreements over electoral reforms. Gnassingbe recently announced legislative and local polls would be held by the end of March.

Togo has banned marches in commercial areas of the capital, saying they posed too great a risk to security and were difficult to police.

The opposition has denounced the ban, calling it a bid to stifle dissent in the small West African nation led by the same family for more than four decades. A series of protests in recent months have been dispersed with tear gas.

The president's father Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005.

The military installed his son in power after his death and he has since won elections in 2005 and 2010, though the opposition disputes these victories.

Gnassingbe's supporters argue he is working to carry out reforms at a steady pace.

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