‘Quitter le pouvoir’ French for ‘Leave power’ and Faure must go’ can be seen on placards in the streets of Togo as the people demand President Faure Gnassingbé step down. Gnassingbé has been in power for 12 years since the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadema, in 2005 after a 38-year rule. It’s been 50 long years of the Gnassingbé dynasty and Togolese are saying they’ve had enough.
The protests, which began in August, show no sign of quelling; instead, they have grown bigger over the weeks, spreading across several cities with over a hundred thousand protesters in Lome alone.
But the protest is not just on the streets; opposition lawmakers are also fighting to bring down the ruling class. On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, opposition lawmakers boycotted the passage of a bill that seeks to introduce a two-term limit for the president and a two-round voting system, forcing a referendum.
“This bill to modify the constitution concerns specifically the limitations of mandates and voting procedures,” read a statement from the government. Gnassingbé had sought to appease the opposition by introducing the bill to reform the constitution last week, a bill the opposition has long demanded since the death of his father in 2005.
But the bill has been tweaked to favour the current president; the paragraph of the 1992 constitution that says no president can serve more than two terms has been removed. This leaves room for Gnassingbé to contest and be re-elected in the next two subsequent elections. And the opposition wants none of that, hence the boycott. They want a revival of the omitted clause and the immediate resignation of Gnassingbé.
Togolese protested against the ruling dynasty back in 2005 following the election of Gnassingbé after the death of his father. The violent protest resulted in the killing of hundreds of people but it did not depose the ruling class. However, with the scale of the ongoing protest, things are looking bleak for the ruling class for the first time in a long while.
According to Tikpi Atchadam, the head of the Pan-African National Party, Unir or Unite, the president’s party always calls for talks whenever it is cornered, but the people do not believe in having dialogues with the regime anymore. “I think the people have made up their mind because they’re fed up,” he told AFP.