It seems like business as usual in Togo’s capital, Lome despite growing tension and ongoing protests calling for an end to President Faure Gnassingbe’s rule, but many say the political crisis is having a negative impact on their livelihood.
Residents say there have been internet cuts – a method increasingly used by governments to stifle criticism at sensitive times.
An Entrepreneur, Marcel Agbedanou who owns an internet cafe said the situation is really deplorable, adding that it has led to serious consequences for their businesses.
For young entrepreneurs such as us, the internet is a tool that we use often in order to sell our products and market our products.
“For young entrepreneurs such as us, the internet is a tool that we use often in order to sell our products and market our products.Today, the internet has been shut down, and it’s not the first time. It was also shut down last week,” he said.
On Wednesday thousands marched nation-wide against government reforms announced on Tuesday which they say will allow the Gnassingbe family dynasty to run the West African country until 2030.
In Lome, people wearing the red and orange T-shirts of the opposition banged on drums and sang a traditional battle song “Strength to the Great” in the local Ewe language.
Others carried a giant banner saying: “People of Togo say No! 50 years is enough!”
We created the slogan ‘Faure Must Go’, to demand the removal of Faure Gnassingbe because diplomacy has reached its limits in Togo since the 90’s. We gave the government enough time to make the reforms that we have been calling for. We can no longer trust this government that claims that it will implement reforms,” said one unidentified opposition protester.
Hundreds were killed in the aftermath of Gnassingbe’s contested election win in 2005.
Shortly afterward, he pledged to re-introduce the term limits his father scrapped and align Togo with most of its West African neighbors, which are bucking a trend toward life-long presidencies elsewhere on the continent.
“There has been an impact on the economy. When you look at the recent evaluation by the Togo Revenue authority (OTR), the two days of protests led to losses of around 2,5 billion CFA (27 million USD), and there was a drop in movement of trucks the port, it’s something that’s worrying, it’s very worrying,“said an advisor to President Faure, Djossou Semondji.
The former French colony of 8 million people is home to several large firms, including Ecobank and regional airline ASKY, and authorities noted the crisis has also begun affecting the economy.
Protests both against and in support of the president are expected to resume on Thursday.
Gnassingbe, now in his third term, dropped the reforms until parliament this week attempted to cap future presidencies to two terms of five years, but the bill did not get enough backing due to an opposition boycott.
Togolese authorities acknowledged blocking internet access but said it was to curb the spread of “hate speech” and “misinformation’.