DAKAR — Anti-government protests are intensifying in Togo, where female opposition leaders have called for weeklong sex strike
to begin Monday. Protesters are calling for the resignation of the country's president, whose family has ruled the West African nation since 1967.
The female wing of the opposition "Save Togo" movement has called for Togolese women to abstain from sex for one week as part of ongoing protests against President Faure Gnassingbe.
The movement has been taking to the streets since June to call for Mr. Gnassingbe's resignation, as well as the reversal of electoral reforms the opposition claims favor the ruling party in upcoming parliamentary elections.
The sex strike was announced at a peaceful rally Saturday where opposition leaders called for acts of civil disobedience.
Opposition politician, Isabelle Ameganvi, said the women's plan has met with resistance, even within the movement. “The men of “Sauvons le Togo” ["Save Togo"] came and they begged the women to lessen this idea because the idea was very difficult for them. But all the women who were at the manifestation [demonstration] have said ‘no,'” she said.
She said authorities have until Thursday to release all protesters detained last week or the women will march naked through the capital.
Togo's security minister said Sunday authorities have released 119 people detained during last week's clashes between protesters and police. Authorities said eight people, who were allegedly armed with knives, remain in custody.
The "Save Togo" movement has promised more marches and a sit-in in the capital, Lome, this week.
Last week's demonstrations slid into violence as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors who hurled rocks and shouted slogans against Gnassingbe.
The opposition has turned down a government offer to negotiate.
"Save Togo" representative, Claude Ameganvi, said they have reached the point of no return and Mr. Gnassingbe cannot remain head of state, claiming to govern as the situation deteriorates to this point. He says people have had enough, everybody's angry, and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.
Faure Gnassingbe came to power in violent, disputed elections in 2005 after the death of his father, who had run the country for 38 years. He was re-elected to a second term in 2010 amid opposition complaints of fraud and intimidation.
Manager of the Paris-based Africa-risk analysis group Strategico, Lydie Boka, says the protests mark a "turning point" in what has been a gradual, albeit primarily superficial, opening up of the regime in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The government has not used lethal force against protesters, a departure from previous uprisings and a sign of what Boka says is the regime's attention to its global image. But Boka says it is unlikely that protesters will push out the president. She says the Gnassingbe family has remained in power for decades, thanks to powerful economic interests and its strong ethnic ties to the military. She says the protests could lead to certain key wins for the opposition, including the redrawing of legislative districts.
Togo holds a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, which Boka said makes the Gnassingbe regime strategically important to foreign powers like the United States and France and could limit international support for the opposition movement.