Thousands of women in anti-president protest in Togo

Lome - Thousands of women took to the streets of Togo's capital Lome on Saturday to protest against the power of President Faure Gnassingbe.

Since September, a coalition of 14 political parties has held almost weekly marches, where thousands have called for Gnassingbe to step down to end the more than 50-year rule of one family.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said during the march it was a "great initiative", adding: "Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game."

The female-focused demonstration follows similar protests in West Africa, notably the Women of Liberia movement which started in Monrovia in 2003 during the country's civil war.

Setting off from three different meeting points, the women dressed mostly in black and were accompanied by men and opposition leaders for the demonstration, which lasted several hours.

Previous demonstrations 

"We will from now on take our destiny in our own hands because we are the ones who suffer the most in our families from this situation," shopkeeper Kossiwa Djomadi told AFP.

"There is no work and economic activity is slow... Discussions this time are sincere, and all topics are discussed for change in Togo," she added.

Several West African countries have called on Gnassingbe and the opposition to meet for talks under the supervision of Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo and Guinea's Alpha Conde.

Talks were announced in early November but appear to have stalled, with no date fixed for the start of discussions.

The opposition first wants its supporters who were arrested at previous demonstrations to be freed from custody.

It also wants security forces to withdraw from the north of the country, where the Panafrican National Party (PNP) has support.

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