Togo protest ban sets up showdown

2012-08-16 22:16

Lome - Togo banned street demonstrations in commercial centres on Thursday, setting up a potential showdown between authorities and the opposition next week, with three days of protests planned.

A coalition of civil society and opposition groups called Let's Save Togo has announced the latest of its protests for 21 to 23 August in Deckon, a major commercial centre in Lome, the Togolese capital.

Several protests, which have come ahead of parliamentary elections expected in October, have been dispersed with tear gas in recent months, including those at Deckon. Security agents also blocked protesters' access to Deckon in June.

Territorial Administration Minister Gilbert Bawara said in a statement that protests in areas where "commercial activities were concentrated or where traffic is heavy" posed risks to public and private property.

He added that it was difficult to maintain law and order there.

The minister has informed a delegation of the coalition of "an immediate ban on staging public protests, especially sit-ins, in such places," the statement said.

"Our protests will go ahead as planned on 21, 22 and 23 August with Deckon as the stopping-off point," an official from the coalition, Raphael Kpande-Adzare, told reporters on Thursday.

"It is left to government to take all necessary measures to supervise the protesters ... We will hold [the government] responsible for the consequences that result from the protest."

While the elections are expected to be held in October in the West African nation, no precise date has been set.

Togo has been run by the same family for more than four decades. Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005.

Faure Gnassingbe was installed in the presidency by the army in 2005 shortly after the announcement of the death of his father, who had been a general. He has since won elections in 2005 and 2010.