LOME, TOGO - A 10-year-old boy was killed and 10 other people were injured in Togo's capital Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated against a vote by the West African nation's parliament on a bill they feared would allow the president to run for more terms, the security minister said.
Togo's security minister, Colonel Damehame Yark, blamed opposition members for the violence, saying they brought weapons to the demonstrations.
Thousands of people across the small West African nation have been demonstrating since last month for term limits on President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since his father died in 2005. The Gnassingbe family has ruled the nation for 50 years.
Security forces killed at least two people and injured several others in demonstrations in August, and they used tear gas to break up another peaceful protest this month.
The ruling party voted Tuesday in favor of a draft bill that the opposition said did not include a sentence outlining term limits for the president.
Vote of the people
The bill will need to be submitted to a referendum of the people next month before it can be enforced as a law, parliament chair Dama Dramani said.
Opposition lawmakers have demanded the reinstatement of Togo's 1992 Constitution in its original form, which allowed a president to serve only two terms.
Patrick Lawson, a spokesman of the main ANC opposition party, said the bill introduced two weeks ago did not take into account the amendments the opposition wanted.
"The country's voting list is not credible. Besides, the electoral commission and the constitutional court have allegiance to the ruling party. So we don't approve the idea of a referendum," Lawson said.
Christophe Tchao, a spokesman for the ruling party, said the party had shown openness.
Thousands of ruling party supporters also were in the streets Wednesday. Some wore white T-shirts that read "Don't touch my president."
While Gnassingbe has not said he will run again in 2020, the opposition has said it suspects he will not step down unless compelled to, either through reforms in parliament or citizen protests.
Gnassingbe's father ruled for 38 years. Before his death, he modified the Constitution to extend his rule.