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Togolese protesters battle with internet shutdown

Hundreds of thousands of Togolese citizens continue to turn out in the capital, Lome, for the latest round of anti-government protest cal...

Hundreds of thousands of Togolese citizens continue to turn out in the capital, Lome, for the latest round of anti-government protest called by main opposition parties.

An opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre is quoted as describing the turnout as “unprecedented”. Spokesperson for international rights group, Amnesty International put the figure at 100,000 according to AFP.

They are demanding for the revision of the 1992 Constitution whose Article 59 was modified in 2002 allowing Faure Gnassingbe to run for an unlimited term.

They want the original two five-year term limit be restored, a two-ballot system, reform of the Constitutional Court and the Electoral Commission.

The Togolese government has passed a draft bill to reintroduce presidential term limits as hundreds of protesters gather in the capital Lome and other towns.

The cabinet said in a statement after its decision on Tuesday night that the bill will modify Article 59 of the constitution which will address the concerns of the protesters.

The decision by the government comes hours before the planned mass protest called by the six-party opposition coalition CAP 2015 and the Pan-African National Party (PNP).

A day before the protest, internet connectivity was barred yet unconfirmed images of the protests were posted online showing thousands of people marching in the streets of the capital Lome, northern city of Bafilo, Tchamba in the north among other towns.

Mobile internet was blocked particularly affecting social media networks – Whatsapp and Facebook. Wi-Fi access was available till Wednesday afternoon when it was also shut down.

According to Togolese activist Farida Nabourema who tweeted from neighbouring Ghana, some Togolese go to the border where Ghana’s telecommunication networks are accessible to transmit post updates of the protest online.
She also insisted that the protest will go on despite the decision by the government because the authorities may change their mind.

Thousands of Togolese nationals held demonstrations in about half a dozen cities around the world including north of the capital Lome last month where at least seven people were killed in clashes with security forces.

27 people were arrested during the protests and 15 were handed sentences last week ranging between five and nine months by a court in Lome.

President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since his father Gnassingbe Eyadema died after spending 38 years in office.

In 2005 when Eyadema died of heart attack, Faure, who was a minister at the time was sworn in as acting president by the military instead of the President of the National Assembly.

He resigned a few days later after pressure from the international and regional communities, but stood for the disputed 2005 elections months later and won, leading to deadly protests and displacement of thousands of people.

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