Lome – Clashes between restive school pupils and police in southern Togo have left 43 people injured, the government of the west African country said.
Violence erupted on Wednesday in the small town of Glei when security forces moved in to disperse students demanding the resumption of classes halted by a long teachers’ strike, according to an official statement read on state television.
Demonstrators barricaded streets and disrupted traffic for several hours on the main highway heading to the north of the country, the government said in Wednesday’s statement.
“Security forces were greeted with showers of stones and projectiles thrown with rare violence. It took an intervention by reinforcements to help push back extremely violent demonstrators,” it said.
“The pupils were demonstrating calmly when the security forces arrived to disperse them violently with tear gas canisters. This made some of the pupils angry, backed by youths from the district,” one teacher told AFP.
Staff in most hospitals and schools in Togo have been on strike on and off for several weeks to press for a pay rise.
The strike was interrupted when the employees’ trade union held talks with the government, but it resumed again this week after negotiations broke down.
The government said 20 of those injured Wednesday were members of the security forces, adding that 19 people including five students were taken into custody.
Togo is gearing up for an election on 15 April in which President Faure Gnassingbe will be seeking a third five-year term.
He came to power in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled Togo with an iron fist for 38 years and abolished a limit on the number of mandates.
Attempts to introduce term limits have been blocked in parliament where Gnassingbe’s party has a majority.
Late last year, opposition supporters took to the streets with civil society groups to demand changes.