UN urges Togo to respond to people’s “legitimate expectations”

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Togo Protests photo courtesy -@mosesngwanah

The United Nations urged Togo to respond to people’s “legitimate expectations” as police clashed with protesters demanding an end to the 50-year ruling family dynasty.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Wednesday to demand that President Faure Gnassingbe step aside in the biggest challenge to his family’s power since the death of his father Gnassingbé Eyadéma in 2005.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN Special Envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, called on all parties “to preserve peace and security, which are valuable assets in West Africa”.

“I remain convinced that all parties want to move forward on the reforms… in order to reach a consensus to respond to the legitimate expectations of the Togolese people,” Chambas said in a statement.

The unrest was less widespread than in previous days and in other areas of the seaside capital, including the centre, traffic had resumed and shops were re-opening amid a heavy police and paramilitary presence.

Security forces cleared barracades erected by the protesters.

Ever since Gambian long-time leader Yahya Jammeh was forced out after losing an election last December, West African countries have become unanimous in accepting two terms as the limit on presidential office – the only exception being Togo.

The current president, who has encouraged investment to try to turn his tiny nation into a business, banking and shipping hub modelled on Singapore or Dubai, this week sought to appease opponents by tabling a draft bill to reform the constitution and reintroduce a two-term limit.

But opposition leaders reject it because it could still enable Gnassingbe to rule until 2030.

The protests that followed Faure Gnassingbe’s first election victory in 2005 triggered a violent security crackdown in which about 500 people were killed, but this week security forces appear to have avoided bloodshed so far.