Thousands protest against government in Togo

Lome - Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Togo's capital Lome on Saturday, against President Faure Gnassingbe and his government.

The protest came the day after mediators from Ghana and Guinea said that Togo will enter talks on controversial constitutional reform February 15, in a move aimed at ending a crippling political stalemate.

A rolling series of demonstrations against President Gnassingbe have been unfolding for several months, and the country has been rocked by striking teachers and health workers.

The opposition parties want to restrict presidents to a maximum of two, five-year terms of office, and introduce a two-round voting system.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005. He took over from his father, who ruled the country for 38 years.

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While the mediators said Friday that the leaders of the 14 opposition parties had agreed to "suspend" the public protests, the leaders themselves carried on with Saturday's protest.

"It's our constitutional right to protest. If we want to protest then we will, " said opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre.

The marchers clogged up several main roads in the capital, chanting slogans against the regime.

Such demonstrations have become an almost weekly event since early September.

"I don't expect anything from th upcoming dialogue, because the regime in place is not sincere," said one of the marchers, Kossi Djivo.

West African leaders in November called for both sides in Togo to enter talks mediated by President Nana Akufo-Addo, from neighbouring Ghana, and Guinea's Alpha Conde.

The opposition coalition has demanded "measures for de-escalation", including the release of detained prisoners and the withdrawal of security forces.

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