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Togo Postpones Parliament Session on Reforming Constitution

Protesters march with placards as they call for reforms during an anti-government rally in Lome, Togo, Sept. 6, 2017.
Protesters march with placards as they call for reforms during an anti-government rally in Lome, Togo, Sept. 6, 2017.

Togo's parliament suspended its session Tuesday as opposition members protested the lack of a promised discussion of constitutional reforms, while anger grew over the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family.

Opposition lawmakers want a discussion on reinstating the country's 1992 constitution, which included presidential term limits and two rounds of voting to allow the opposition to reassemble behind one candidate.

Thousands of people across the small West African nation have been demonstrating for term limits on President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since his father died in 2005. The protests began last month, when security forces killed at least two people and injured several others.

The government last week introduced a draft bill on constitutional reform in parliament in an effort to contain the growing anti-government protests that have seen police fire tear gas at a peaceful sit-in as opposition members called for Gnassingbe's resignation.

Main opposition party spokesman Eric Dupuy said the heads of a parliamentary commission are expected to meet Wednesday to review the draft bill. It was not clear when a vote on it might take place.

A similar constitutional reform draft bill was rejected two years ago in parliament, where the ruling party holds a majority of seats.

Though Gnassingbe has not said he would run again in 2020, the opposition has said it suspects he will not quit power unless compelled to step down.

Gnassingbe's father ruled for 38 years. Before his 2005 death, he modified the constitution to remove the limit of two five-year presidential terms.

The unrest in Togo has led to the postponement, at Gnassingbe's request, of an Israel-Africa summit that was meant to take place there next month, Israel's foreign ministry said Monday. The summit is part of Israel's efforts to win the support of African nations on the global stage and especially at the United Nations, where resolutions in the General Assembly regularly criticize Israel on the Palestinian issue.

The summit faced boycotts from a number of African countries even before the unrest began. A new date for the summit has not been set.