Lome - Togo's government on Monday said it was working towards talks with its political opponents after more than two months of protests calling for President Faure Gnassingbe's resignation.

The first of three protests this week begins on Tuesday, stoking fears of a repeat of violence between opposition supporters, police and the military in the capital, Lome, and elsewhere.

But industry and tourism minister Yaovi Attigbe Ihou said the government was "taking the necessary measures for the opening of a dialogue in Lome with all of Togo's political class".

In a statement read on national television, he said it was hoped "that all this will lead the political parties concerned to act with the greatest restraint and responsibility and to work for the national interest by the safeguarding of peace and national cohesion".

 

At least 16 people have been killed across the country since late August when the first protests began, to restart a longstanding opposition push for a limit of two five-year terms on the presidential mandate.

Dialogue 

Gnassingbe has been president since 2005, when he took over from his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years.

In recent days, the government has appeared more conciliatory and has lifted restrictions on weekday protests and proposed having rights groups as observers during demonstrations to keep trouble at bay.

France, the former colonial power, is one of a number of countries to have expressed concern about the clashes, as well as the use of plain-clothes militia alongside the security services.

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has urged dialogue between the two sides.

On Monday, Togo's government said it was keen to preserve the right to protest and to restore calm by finding a "credible and durable solution to the question of political reforms".

To that end, it said it would "take the necessary measures to release 42 people arrested, tried and found guilty by various courts over recent violent demonstrations".

AFP

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