New protests in Togo as efforts to start talks stall

Cote d'Ivoire's President Alassane Ouattara (R) gestures as he speaks with his Togo counterpart Faure Gnassingbe during a meeting at the presidential palace in Abidjan, on November 20, 2017. President Gnssingbe is under pressure from a coalition of opposition parties to leave power. PHOTO | AFP 

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lome on Saturday for the third time this week to demand the exit of President Faure Gnassingbe, with little sign of progress on promised talks.

President Gnassingbe, who has ruled Togo for more than 15 years, pledged in November that his government would hold talks with opposition groups "within several weeks", but has kept silent since then.

Regional mediators including Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo and Guinea's President Alpha Conde have been working to open up negotiations between the two sides.

Releases detainees

"For now the Guinea and Ghana presidents are trying to have 'appeasement measures' taken so that the talks can start," Jean-Pierre Fabre, leader of the National Alliance for Change, told AFP during the protests Saturday.

"The protests are going to continue until our demands our met," he said.

The protests which have gripped Togo since late August have been organised by a coalition of 14 opposition parties, who say they will talk only if the government releases detainees, lifts the ban on demonstrations in several northern cities and sends troops back to their barracks.

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Gnassingbe has been president of the West African nation since 2005, taking over after the death of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years.

The opposition parties want two-term limits for presidents, applied retroactively to prevent President Gnassingbe from contesting the 2020 and 2025 elections.

"These coming talks need to be frank and sincere," and focus on "the terms of Faure's departure, either now or in 2020," when new elections are scheduled, said Adjoa, a market vendor who was attending the Lome protests.

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