AFRICA/TOGO - Women, in black, take to the streets to demonstrate against the President

Tuesday, 23 January 2018


Lome (Agenzia Fides) - Togo women are at the forefront of the popular protest against the power of President Faure Gnassingbe. Since September, a coalition of 14 political parties has held almost weekly marches, where thousands of women have called for Gnassingbe to step down to end the more than 50-year rule of one family (see Fides 11/10/2017). "A few days ago the women, and only them, took to the streets of Lome. It is a fact with a strong symbolic meaning", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Silvano Galli, missionary of the Society of African Missions (SMA) in Togo.
"Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game", said opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre, during the march he hailed as a "great initiative".
Setting off from three different meeting points, the women dressed mostly in black were accompanied by men and opposition leaders for the demonstration, which lasted several hours in the Togolese capital. "We will from now on take our destiny in our own hands because we are the ones who suffer the most in our families from this situation", protesters said. "We took to the streets to affirm our role in Togolese society. We have chosen the color black to really show that we are grieving, that things are not working. When a black woman wears black, it means she is truly grieving. Our children, our brothers are unjustly in prison. The requests remain the same as those of the coalition. We want the return of the constitution of '92, the respect of our rights, we want things to really change. We are ready to take to the streets for other events. We will no longer remain in the second row. The future of our children is at stake", they said during the demonstration.
Several West African countries, worried about the instability that the Togo crisis can cause, have called for a dialogue between power and opposition, with the mediation of Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo and that of Guinea, Alfa Condé . The two Heads of State received a delegation from the Togolese opposition last week in Conakry and Accra to try to start dialogues, which are still blocked.
The opposition calls for "pacification measures", including the release of the still detained demonstrators and the withdrawal of security forces in the north of the country, before the start of negotiations. At the end of the meeting, President Alpha Condé promised to send a delegation to Lome "to examine the demands of the opposition", and proposed dialogue to be held from 23 to 26 January. (SG/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 23/1/2018)