Two Killed in Nationwide Protests in Togo Before Disputed Ballot

(Bloomberg) -- At least two people were killed in Togo when police clashed with demonstrators during a banned nationwide protest, in an explosion of tension before disputed parliamentary elections later this month.

Four policemen were also hurt, and authorities arrested 28 people in the capital, Lome, and Bafilo, 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of the city, the government said in a statement that was read out on state-owned Television Togolaise Saturday. It confirmed the two deaths.

Opposition spokeswoman Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo said one of the people killed was nine years old. Several more people were wounded when police opened fire with live ammunition, she said.

"Police used tear gas, water cannons and real bullets against our supporters in several parts of the country," she said.

The opposition coalition, of which the biggest party is the Alliance Nationale pour le Changement, or the ANC, is demanding the government halt preparations for the elections planned for Dec. 20. While the parties have vowed to hold 10 days of protest until Dec. 18, the government banned the demonstrations earlier this week. The ANC has said it will boycott the vote and only small parties and independents will take part.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the west African country of 7.5 million people to demand an end to the rule of President Faure Gnassingbe last year, prompting talks led by Ghana and Guinea.

The negotiations resulted in a date for the parliamentary elections, but the opposition says the government hasn’t fulfilled promises it made to mediators of the Economic Community of West African States. Protesters are calling on the government to implement constitutional reforms and to release protesters and civil-society activists who have been jailed.

The opposition is also seeking to block a government proposal to limit presidential terms to two, but not retroactively, which would allow Gnassingbe to stay another 10 years in office. He has been in power since winning disputed elections in 2005.

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