Security forces in Togo fired bullets and teargas on Thursday, wounding at least seven people as they sought to break up violent protests against the 50-year ruling family dynasty in the West African banking and transport hub.
Activists have been demonstrating since August against President Faure Gnassingbe’s refusal to give a clear date for stepping aside and to allow opposition parties to flourish in the region’s only country that still does not accept presidential term limits.
A Reuters cameraman saw trucks carrying armed paramilitary gendarmes drive into crowds and fire volleys of teargas.
Protesters in the Lome suburb of Be, flanked by rundown buildings and palm trees, set up barricades, burned tyres and threw stones at the security forces.
“We’ve received seven people wounded by bullets so far,” said a doctor at the Social Medical Centre in Be, where some were being wrapped in bandages.
The former French colony of 8 million people is home to several large firms, including Ecobank and regional airline ASKY, and has undergone major port upgrades as the president has sought to turn the resource-poor nation into a commercial hub.
But a history of repression and the monopoly of power by one family - Faure took power in 2005 upon the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled for 38 years - threaten its stability.
Ghassingbe’s opponents says reforms announced last month, in response to August’s protests, will still allow him to run the West African country until 2030.