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Constitutional reform in Togo ‘urgent’- parliament head

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Protesters march during an anti-government demonstration led by a coalition of opposition parties on September 7, 2017 in Lome. The Togolese government have called in anti-riot police following a second day of demonstrations, as protesters barricaded roads and set bonfires to express discontent in the government’s hard stance against constitutional reform. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Lawmakers in Togo will begin to look at a constitutional reform bill on Friday, the head of the National Assembly said Wednesday, after protests rocked the African country last week.

Parliamentary groups and commissions met to read the government proposals, which came after opposition calls for a two-term limit for presidents and a two-round voting system.

Togo’s opposition has been calling for changes for more than a decade. Last week, hundreds of thousands took to the streets calling for reform.

The Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Wednesday called on the government and opposition to carry out the reforms.

Its head, Marcel Alain de Souza, met President Faure Gnassingbe in the capital, Lome, before holding talks with opposition leaders and religious dignitaries.

“From the consultations we had, it appears that there is a will for dialogue (…) to make the reforms,” he said in a statement broadcast on national television.

“The head of state has listened to us and we believe that he has expressed the firm will to achieve these reforms,” ​​he added.

Consultation for constitutional reform risks being a drawn-out process, but National Assembly president Dama Dramani said: “We are in an urgent situation.

“That’s why we are going to disregard our procedures to end the (current parliamentary) session tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday we will look at the government’s bill,” he added.

Dramani called on the constitutional law commission that examines proposed changes to look at the bill and make its recommendations as quickly as possible.

On Monday, he told state television that a proper debate on constitutional reform could not be held at short notice.

The main opposition National Alliance for Change (ANC) said constitutional change was the only issue the public wanted to talk about.

“We need to discuss, study and adopt the bill… as the Togolese people want,” said ANC lawmaker Isabelle Ameganvi.

Faure Gnassingbe has been president since 2005 after taking over from his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who assumed power in 1967.

Faure was re-elected in 2010 and 2015.

With The Gambia, Togo was the only ECOWAS member to reject a proposal to limit the number of presidential terms across the region during a summit in Accra in May 2015.


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