‘Don’t touch my constitution!’ – Togolese resist reforms ahead of election


Tensions are rising in Togo over major constitutional reforms ahead of delayed parliamentary elections.

The constitutional reboot was approved by lawmakers last month but resubmitted for “consultations” as public anger over its stealthy passage through parliament mounted with police breaking up an opposition news conference and cracking down on protests.

The reforms would see Togo move from a presidential to a parliamentary system, essentially ushering in the country’s fifth republic. But opposition activists believe it’s all a ruse designed to keep longstanding President Faure Gnassingbe in power – albeit, they say, with a new job title – preserving a dynastic system stretching back nearly six decades.

Amid the turmoil, Gnassingbe postponed parliamentary elections last week, a move that only served to stir up the unrest. Then, on Tuesday, the government announced that it would go ahead with the elections after all, rescheduling them for April 29, just over a week later than the original date.

At the same time, the government warned opposition groups to scrap plans for three days of protests this week, declaring the rallies illegal. But protest leaders in the small West African nation have vowed to take to the streets on April 12 and 13 anyway, despite the recent arrests of nine opposition figures.

“Don’t touch my constitution. It’s our only guarantee of stability,” Gerard Djossou, a member of the Dynamique pour La Majorite du Peuple (DMP) alliance of parties and civil society organisations, told Al Jazeera. Unlike in 1992, when Togo’s constitution was approved by an overwhelming majority of voters on a high turnout, the people been given no say this time round, he said.


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