Honouring to an invitation from the Togolese opposition party, Union of Forces for Change (UFC), thousands of candle holding militants gathered Wednesday at the party’s headquarters at around 17 hours (local time). However, the vigil to “bury the regime in power” was cut short. At nightfall, the police stormed the area and dispersed the crowd. The opposition has been banned from protesting against the re-election of Faure Gnassingbé as President of Togo.
The UFC vigil was going quietly until a policeman, in civilian clothes and carrying a pistol, was detained by the opposition party’s security services. Bleeding after having been flogged by the mob, he was handed over to the organizers of the vigil, who in turn handed him over to his colleagues.
A few minutes later the swelling crowd grew more restless. The many access routes to the UFC headquarters were blocked by party militants as the premises overflowed with people. But the police charged and fired tear gas into the crowd to disperse them. The gas landed right in the middle of a large group of praying party militants. All hell broke lose as people run helter skelter while some tried to climb over walls to safety.
“We can not understand why the crowd became excited, assaulted us with fists and lit candles,” said Agnita Bertin, commander of the Special Forces for the Presidential election (Fosep 2010), who was present at the scene. But for many of the demonstrators, the attack was an act of revenge in favor of their colleague who had been flogged by the crowd.
According to organizers, the incident left 30 persons injured, including Isabelle Améganvi, a member of parliament and party official.
The vigil which was organized to “bury the regime in power” is part of a series of demonstrations to protest against the re-election of Faure Gnassingbé, accused by the opposition of having “stolen victory” from Jean-Pierre Fabre, the main opposition candidate.
After the election, the Constitutional Court of Togo credited the outgoing president with over 60% of the total votes against almost 34% for Jean-Pierre Fabre. Many, including the international community, have condemned the murky election vote count.
Colonel Atcha Titikpina, Togolese Minister of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced Thursday that any demonstration of a “rebellious nature” that targets the re-election of Faure Gnassingbé is now banned.