Protests against the rule of President Faure Gnassingbe erupt throughout the country, resulting in the death of at least one person. The opposition has said the protests will not stop.

Even at the meeting of UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, there were protests against the government of Faure Gnassingbé.
Even at the meeting of UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, there were protests against the government of Faure Gnassingbé. (AFP)

Togo is bracing for a second day of protests against the regime of President Faure Gnassingbe on Thursday.

Thousands thronged the streets of Togo's seaside capital of Lome on Wednesday after the ruling party asked supporters to march at the same time as planned opposition protests demanding the removal of Gnassingbe.

In the northern town of Mango, a 9-year-old was shot dead and 14 others were injured when police opened fire with live ammunition on protesters, an activist told TRT World on Wednesday night. 

The town is located in the country's northern-most Savanes Region.

More protests are planned on Thursday against what opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre called "the monstrous machine that has been crushing Togo's people for more than 50 years."

"People think we will get tired, but they are wrong," Fabre told thousands of supporters in Lome.

"We will fight till the end," he said, calling for fresh demonstrations on September 26, 27 and 28.

The rival demonstrations on Wednesday came a day after the opposition boycotted a vote on constitutional reform which would have included a presidential term limit, arguing that it was a ploy to let Gnassingbe remain in power till 2030.

The opposition wanted the limit to apply retroactively so that Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005, could not run again in 2020. His father Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled from 1967 till his death in 2005.

The protests came after giant rallies on September 6 and 7 seeking the president's ouster that drew more than 100,000 people to the streets – a record in a country which has been widely criticised for stifling democracy. 

The protesters held up posters declaring "Faure must go" and "Free my country, 50 years is enough".

Police and soldiers armed with heavy machine guns flanked the streets in pick-up trucks. Mobile  phone networks and 3G services appeared to have been severed.

"We are not jihadists, we are not rebels," said Abdallah, 42, a supporter of the Panafrican National Party (PNP). "We just want democracy, we are tired."

Communications Minister Guy Lorenzo condemned what he called a "coup d'etat" on the streets.

In August, similar protests claimed the lives of two people.

Explosive situation

Comi Toulabor, head of research at the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux, called the counter-rallies by the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party "a strategy to disrupt the opposition protest."

"It's very amateurish, but it shows the party isn't ready to give way," he told AFP, calling the situation "explosive".

About one thousand UNIR supporters quietly gathered on the beach in Lome on Wednesday, some sitting in the shade of palm trees.

"It is a pleasure to be here," UNIR supporter Georgia, 34, told AFP. "We are peaceful."

Paid to march

One young protester said he received 5,000 CFA francs (7.50 euros, $9) to participate in the pro-government rally.

"You think we're here for politics?" asked 17-year-old Justin.

The failure to pass the constitutional reform bill in parliament forced a referendum, which a member of the government said will be held in the coming months.

Gnassingbe has now won three elections, the results of which have been contested by the opposition.

Half of Togo's population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, despite a GDP growth rate of five percent over the last three years.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies