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Western nations, UN concerned after mob prevents Togo demo

Published on September 19, 2012

Several Western ambassadors and the United Nations in Togo issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the actions of a violent crowd that prevented an opposition protest at the weekend.

A mob with sticks and machetes occupied an area where Togolese opposition and civil society groups planned to protest on Saturday, as police looked on without intervening.

Several dozen people, many carrying long sticks, threatened passers-by and prevented journalists from taking photographs in a neighbourhood of the capital Lome considered a ruling party stronghold.

Journalists at the scene did not witness any major incidents, but protest organisers said about 40 people who had arrived earlier in the day were wounded by what they called ruling party militia members.

Ambassadors from the European Union, Germany, France and the United States as well as the UN resident coordinator in Togo expressed their “deep concern in view of images of violent confrontations and use of weapons during the opposition’s authorised protest”.

They “deplored the resurgence of political tension, while reiterating their commitment to the freedom of expression and peaceful protest.”

Parliamentary elections are due in October in Togo, a small west African country ruled by the same family for more than four decades, but a date has not been announced and they are widely expected to be delayed.

Several protests in recent months organised by Let’s Save Togo, the coalition that organised Saturday’s demonstration, have been dispersed by police firing tear gas. Clashes have also broken out between security forces and protesters.

The coalition has planned further protests for September 25 to 27 in Lome. The group’s women’s wing has called for a street protest in Lome on Thursday.

The military installed President Faure Gnassingbe in power after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema in 2005. He has since won elections in 2005 and 2010.

His father ruled with an iron fist for 38 years until his death.