Togo police occupy rally site after two days of protests

AFP , Thursday 14 Jun 2012

Several thousand of Togolese protesters gather in the capital Lome to express their opposition for changes to the electoral law that will allow the ruling family to achieve further consolidation of power

Security forces fire tear gas as they clash with anti-government protesters in Lome, Togo Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Togolese security forces took over an area where a third day of protests that have drawn thousands were to be held on Thursday after police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators the previous day.

Several thousand had gathered for protests in the capital Lome on Tuesday and Wednesday over changes to the electoral law opposition members say the governing party forced through in a country led by the same family for more than four decades.

Security forces broke up the demonstration on Wednesday with tear gas, and the opposition claimed 119 people were wounded over the two days amid government "repression."

Security Minister Colonel Gnama Latta said Wednesday that 22 policemen were injured in the two days of unrest when protesters hurled missiles at them and erected barricades in certain districts.

The protests have come ahead of parliamentary elections expected for October.

"We could not rally today as planned because the entire area was occupied by the security forces overnight," said Zeus Ajavon of the Let's Save Togo coalition, which organised the protests.

He said the coalition was calling on residents in Lome to stay at home in protest on Friday. More protests would be planned for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, he said.

An AFP journalist saw around 50 police at the main protest area.

The protests were organised against the adoption by the National Assembly of modifications to the electoral law, including one increasing the number of deputies in the next legislature by 10 to 91.

Legislative polls are expected to be held in October but no precise date has been set.

General Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled Togo for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005. The military then installed his son Faure Gnassingbe as president and he later won elections in 2005 and 2010.

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