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Boy killed at huge protests over Togo president's tenure

Last Updated Sep 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm EDT

LOME, Togo – A 10-year-old boy was killed and 10 others injured in Togo’s capital as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated Wednesday against a vote by the West African nation’s parliament on a bill they fear will allow the president to run for more terms, the security minister said.

Togo’s security minister Col. 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 small West African nation for 50 years.

Security forces killed at least two people and injured several others in demonstrations in August, and used tear gas to break up another peaceful protest this month.

The ruling party voted Tuesday in favour of a draft bill that the opposition says does not include a sentence outlining term limits for the president.

The bill will need be submitted for a referendum vote by the people next month before it is 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 only allowed a president to serve 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 has showed 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 would 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.