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Mediators say dialogue to begin in Togo February 15

Mediators announced Friday that Togo will enter talks on controversial constitutional reform February 15, in a move aimed at ending a crippling political stalemate.

However, opposition supporters said they would push ahead with a protest march, scheduled for Saturday.

Why are they doing so? To them negotiations are seen as vital to end the political crisis plaguing the country since August 2017, but a number of obstacles persist. What they want is a restricted dialogue with the government under the auspices of the international community. For them, the ultimate objective of the dialogue is to define the conditions for Gnassingbé’s departure and a return to the 1992 constitution.

On the other hand, the governing party wants the dialogue to be initiated and led by the government and extended to other political actors. The government’s overall goal is the organisation of a referendum. To recall, the contested referendum bill announced in September 2017 by the government proposes a two-term limitation of the mandate of the country’s president and deputies, and a two-round poll.

So why has Togo been in a political crisis? President Faure Gnassingbe, who has ruled Togo since 2005 after succeeding his father who led the country for 38 years, plans to hold a referendum on the revision of the constitution that imposes a presidential limit of two terms. The revision has been rejected by the opposition because it would not be retroactive, meaning that Gnassingbe could run again in 2020 and 2025. Since September, the opposition has been holding almost weekly protests demonstrating against Gnassingbe.

At least 16 people, including teenagers and two soldiers lynched by the crowd, have been killed since the protests, according to reports. Public buildings and private houses – including those close to the government – were ransacked and burned.

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