Faure Gnassingbe

Togo opposition leaders on Sunday said they were not hopeful of political change, as parliament prepared to discuss potential constitutional reform after days of huge anti-government protests.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets this week calling for presidential term limits and denouncing President Faure Gnassingbe and his family’s half-century in power.

Gnassingbe took over as leader in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had come to power in 1967 after a military coup.

Togo’s opposition has long called for constitutional reform and in an apparent concession, the government has proposed a new bill to parliament, which has been recalled for Tuesday.

But Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the CAP 2015 opposition grouping, described the bill as a “delaying tactic”.

“We don’t expect anything from it. We still don’t know the details of the bill. At this stage it’s difficult to talk about it,” he told AFP.

Faure Gnassingbe, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, has won three elections in 2005, 2010 and 2015.

But the opposition has disputed the results and hundreds have been killed in post-poll protests.

This week’s demonstrations were largely peaceful, although police fired teargas at protesters who had mounted barricades in some areas of the capital Lome and more than 80 people were arrested.

Dupuy said Sunday human rights groups had told them all of those detained had been released overnight, but there was no official confirmation from the authorities.

Mobile internet services remained disrupted, according to an AFP correspondent in Lome, who said the atmosphere was calm and there were few people on the streets Sunday morning.

The opposition wants a return to the provision for a maximum of two, five-year presidential terms as well as the introduction of a two-round voting system.

The United Nations has urged the opposition to work with the government to enact reforms.

Togo’s civil service minister Gilbert Barawa said on Friday it was unclear whether lawmakers, who are not officially due back until October, will have time to discuss the reform bill at Tuesday’s extraordinary session.


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