Anti-Gnassingbe protests continue: several deaths, arrests and harassement

Peaceful Assembly

As reported previously on the Monitor, the authorities disrupted access to social media and the internet on 5th September, hours before renewed opposition protests were planned for 6th and 7th September. The demonstrations were organised as a call for constitutional reforms, including a return to the country's 1992 constitution which limits the presidential mandate to two terms. Access was restored five days later, on 10th September. The opposition-led demonstration followed protests a couple of weeks earlier, on 19th August, which cost the lives of several protesters. 

Following protests on 4th and 5th October, on 10th October the authorities banned protests on weekdays (from Monday to Friday) citing security reasons to justify the ban . 

On 16th October, violent clashes followed the arrest of Imam Djobo Mohamed Alassani, a member of the opposition Parti national panafricain (PNP), in the northern city of Sokodé. Angry protesters burned public buildings, and tensions spread to other cities and localities, including the capital Lomé, while security forces reportedly used tear gas against protesters. Four people, two military officers and two civilians died and at least 20 people were injured on 16th and 17th October, according to Amnesty International. The opposition - a coalition of 14 opposition parties - went ahead with planned protests on 18th and 19th October. According to the opposition's reports, three people died and 44 were injured by live ammunition, and 36 people were beaten on 19th October in Lomé. The government has denied the opposition's account of the violence. Media reports indicate a massive presence of military officers in the streets in Sokodé and entered houses on 20th October. One person is reported to have died after being beaten by men in uniform in Sokodé. On 20th October, the Court of First Instance sentenced 16 protesters who had been arrested earlier in the week. They received a prison sentence of 18 months, of which 8 months were suspended, while 11 protesters were released, according to Raphaël Kpandé-Adzaré President of the Ligue togolaise des droits de l'Homme, who spoke with AFP. 

The opposition announced further protests to take place from 7th to 9th November. 

On the night of 12th October, the authorities detained and interrogated three members of the Pan-African movement Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity, while they were in Togo on a solidarity mission. The activists were released on 13th October, but their phones, laptops and passports were confiscated. Their passports were eventually returned on 17th October. Moses Isooba, head of operations with Africans Rising, said in an interview with Monitor research partner - West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) - that they have received reports of civil society representatives and journalists, with whom the solidarity mission met, have been called by the police for questioning. 

Expression

In September, authorities prevented two senior-level journalists from covering the protests taking place in the country. The authorities summoned Emmanuelle Sodji, correspondent with the France-based TV5 and France 24 in the morning of 6th September 2017 to inform her that her accreditation had been withdrawn and did not give a reason. She was banned from covering the protests that day. The day after, on 7th September a police officer seized the camera and accreditation badge of Sylvio Combey, director of the local news site Afrique Rendez-Vous, while he was filming the protests. He later received his camera back from the national intelligence agency after being interrogated.