LOME (Reuters) - Security forces in Togo fired teargas to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters who had gathered in front of the French embassy in the west African nation on Thursday, witnesses said.
Togo, a former French colony, has been rocked by a series of violent protests in the past three weeks, called by the opposition-led “Save Togo” campaign.
The opposition is seeking to reverse a reform of voting rules adopted by the ruling party-dominated parliament and is against a proposed change to the number of seats in the assembly ahead of a legislative election due later this year.
“The young people wanted the French ambassador to witness what is happening to Togo, that is why they went to the embassy,” said Patrick Lawson, one of the co-ordinators of the “Save Togo” campaign. “The police did not let them. They fired teargas to disperse them.”
The street leading to the embassy in the capital Lome was littered with shoes, left behind by fleeing protesters, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
“We were sitting in front of the embassy and singing when police and gendarmerie appeared and started firing teargas in all directions. It was a stampede,” said Darius Akouete who was among the protesters.
Neither the government nor the French embassy were available for comments.
Demonstrators had planned another rally at a stadium in Lome earlier on Thursday, but the venue and neighbourhood were sealed off by security forces.
Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe came to power in flawed and violent 2005 elections following the death of his father.
He was re-elected in a March 2010 poll, and he and his allies control more than 50 of the 81-seat parliament.
The opposition say the country’s constituency boundaries, which were redrawn in May, favour the ruling party and is challenging a move to increase from 81 to 91 the number of seats in parliament.