Togo, a small West African nation with a population of just seven million, has been experiencing waves of protests with escalating violence and intensity since August. The anti-government protesters, organized by a coalition of 14 opposition parties, want long-serving President Faure Gnassingbé to resign, new elections to be held, and term limits to be enforced.
Parties within Togo dispute the scale and violence of the protests. In just two October marches, opposition organizers claimed 11 protesters were killed, 44 were wounded, and 55 were arrested. Meanwhile, the Minister of Security said that there were no casualties and only six arrests.
However, it was only on October 29 that Gnassingbé spoke publicly for the first time about the protests. “You will agree with me that we are going through a tough political crisis in the country…. We have to be bold, courageous, and patient to embrace this situation,” he said, as reported by Al Jazeera. Gnassingbé also rebutted critics who he claims have falsely painted him as a “bloody dictator.” Gnassingbé did not make any tangible concessions or indicate that he intends to leave power.
Many Togolese feel that it is time for a change and that the Gnassingbé dynasty needs to end. The protesters’ demographics span all social classes and geographic regions.
In a concession to protesters on November 3, the government lifted the ban on weekday protests that were put in place in early October in anticipation of major opposition protests scheduled for the coming week, reported Africa News.
With protests showing no signs of abating, observers are hoping that Gnassingbé follows in the footsteps of Yahya Jammeh, the former president of The Gambia who lost reelection and was ousted in January.