Togo bans opposition protests

Lome - Togo authorities on Wednesday banned two protests in the capital Lome planned by the opposition after windows were broken and cars were damaged after a demonstration the previous day.

"Let's Save Togo", a coalition of opposition and civil society groups, had on Tuesday begun three days of demonstrations to protest the death in detention of an opposition member and to demand the release of others held in connection with fires last January at two markets.

Two key markets were ravaged by fire in January, causing millions of dollars in damage and leading to the arrest of opponents of President Faure Gnassingbe.

A number of protests organised by the coalition over various issues have been either banned or dispersed with tear gas in recent months.

Protesters marched on Tuesday through the streets of Lome before assembling peacefully for a rally.

But the government issued a statement - read on state television late Tuesday - saying that a crowd later began "to attack public and private properties".

It said seven vehicles were vandalised while two others were set ablaze and the windows of a hotel were broken.

"In view of... the inability of the organisers of the protest to control their members," the marches for 22 and 23 May are banned, the statement said.

The coalition has organised a series of protests ahead of legislative elections which were due in October but have been repeatedly delayed. A date has not yet been set.

Opposition members have called for the resignation of Gnassingbe, who has won two elections, contested by the opposition, since being installed by the military in 2005 after the death of his father.

His father Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the west African nation of some six million people for 38 years with an iron fist.

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