Togo's security forces have used tear gas and cut some telecommunications in response to tens of thousands of protesters calling for an end to the Gnassingbe family's 50-year control of the small country. Matthew Larotonda reports.
Mass protests in Togo calling for an end to five decades of rule by a single political family are becoming increasingly violent. Police firing tear gas into demonstrations that have pulled in tens of thousands of people across the small country. There are also widespread reports of Internet and mobile phone outages. Earlier this week a government minister said the networks were cut for security reasons. It's a strategy that's been used by other African leaders in the past. Now there are fears the country may be heading for a repeat of the crackdowns that hit protesters when President Faure Gnassingbe first took office 12 years ago, succeeding his late father in a contested election. Hundreds died. The president's father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, himself took power in coup in 1967. Meaning, most Togolese have never known a life without father or son at the top. This is the biggest challenge the younger man has ever faced and for days the demonstrations were peaceful. That may have ended on Thursday (September 7), when witnesses say security forces fired tear gas into hundreds of people participating in a sit-in in the capital. President Gnassingbe tried to appease opponents earlier this week by offering to reintroduce term limits but it wouldn't be retroactive to him. Which means that he could stay on until 2030, assuming he won reelection. Several African heads of state have dropped term limits in recent years in similar efforts to keep power, often leading to violent opposition.