Togo rocked by protests over national park relocation


A police commissioner was killed in clashes in northern Togo between police and demonstrators who were protesting against plans to relocate them from a nature reserve that they had settled in, security sources said Friday.

Police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators throwing rocks in Thursday’s violence.
“In the exchange between rocks being thrown and blasts of tear gas, a police commissioner died,” the security ministry said in a statement.

Togo has been trying to rehabilitate a large nature preserve since 2012 but placed the project on hold after residents’ protests over relocation degenerated into clashes with police ealier this month in which five people were killed.

Thirty-five people were arrested after those demonstrations, the security ministry said. Twenty remained in police custody on Thursday, when protests broke out again to pressure authorities to release them.

Togo had declared 179,000 hectares (690 square miles) of the north to be a national park to preserve local greenery and elephant migration routes, but the area was largely abandoned during political crises in the 1990s.

Residents settled down in the region, establishing villages, planting tracts and grazing livestock, according to the United Nations Development Programme.