The United States State Department has expressed deep concern over rising levels of violence and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in Togo, related to protests over proposed constitutional reforms.
“We are particularly troubled by reports of excessive use of force by security forces and reports that government-sponsored vigilantes are using force and the threat of force to disrupt protests and intimidate civilians,” said the State Department in a press release sent out by the American Embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“The United States is also concerned with the government of Togo’s decision to restrict demonstrations during the workweek and to arrest a prominent imam in the city of Sokode.
“We call on the government of Togo to uphold its citizens’ human rights, notably their freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and Internet freedom and to ensure that all those arrested during demonstrations are afforded the right to due process.”
Urging all parties to renounce the violence that has claimed the lives of protesters and security forces alike, Washington urged Lome and the opposition to engage in dialogue without preconditions which it said was the only solution to the current impasse.
On Tuesday Gambia’s Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe urged Togan President Faure Gnassingbé to resign immediately and called on the African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS to persuade him to step down.
Darboe’s comments indicate opinion is shifting against Gnassingbé who took power in 2005 on the death of his father who ruled from 1967.
Togo has been facing a political crisis in which at least ten have died since August as frustration builds over the slow pace of reform with Gnassingbé’s opponents seeking term limits and other constitutional reform.
The UN has called for action.