LOME – Huge crowds turned out in Togo’s capital for the second day running to demand political reform, in the largest opposition protests against President Faure Gnassingbe’s regime.
Demonstrators began their march calmly late morning, blowing whistles and waving Togo’s green, yellow and red flag, with a heavy security presence stationed at major intersections.
The opposition has long demanded the introduction of a two-round voting system and limiting the number of terms for the president.
Gnassingbe took power in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled the tiny West African nation from 1967.
“We are going to stay on the streets until he (Gnassingbe) listens to us,” one of the protesters, Jonas Badagbo, told AFP.
“We want Faure to re-establish the 1992 constitution and him to leave office,” added the 29-year-old.
Another protester, who gave her name as Agnes, 64, said: “I’ve known the same family since I was 14. Let’s liberate Togo so these children can see something else.
“We’re tired. Enough is enough,” she said.
The veteran political opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre marched at the front of the protesters, surrounded by a human chain of supporters.
“We don’t listen enough to the people. We’re asking today to be heard and for our troubles to be heard,” he told the crowd as they marched.
Mobile internet services were cut in Togo on Thursday, after an estimated 100,000 or more protesters turned out across the country on Wednesday.
On social media sites Facebook and Twitter, which were still accessible using intermittent Wi-Fi access in the capital, Lome, users called for services to be restored.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Internet Without Borders group said the shutdown was “an attack on Togolese citizens’ freedom of expression online”.
Amnesty International’s Togo director, Aime Adi, told AFP by telephone that the internet and mobile phone networks were completely off in several cities in northern Togo.
Information minister Gilbert Bawara told several local radio stations on Wednesday evening that the government reserved the right to impose restrictions on access to the internet.
The demonstrators want constitutional reform, including a limit on presidential mandates to two, five-year terms, and a two-round voting system.
Faure Gnassingbe won elections in 2010 and 2015 but the opposition disputed the results and hundreds of people lost their lives during violent protests after the votes.
Transparency International ranked Togo 116th out of 176 countries in its annual corruption Perceptions Index last year.
Togo was 166th out of 188 countries in the UN Development Programme’s human development report, which looks at areas such as levels of income, health and education.