Togo’s authorities were on Friday urged to end their crackdown on anti-government protests and open talks to end a months-long political crisis.
Thirteen international and local human rights organisations said the government should “end the bloody repression” and talk to those involved in the stand-off.
The call came as thousands of opposition supporters again took to the streets of the capital, Lome, to demand the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.
Three days of marches have been planned for this week, ending on Saturday. Friday’s demonstration passed off without incident, according to an AFP correspondent.
But three months of almost weekly protests have seen bloody clashes between protesters and the security services, leaving at least 16 people dead.
The opposition wants the introduction of a two-term limit for presidents and a two-round voting system, to bring an end to more than 50 years of rule by the Gnassingbe family.
Attempts at mediation are under way at regional level.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the AU, on Thursday said he would meet opposition leaders to try to find a “peaceful” solution.
Conde has already met Gnassingbe.
At the same time, a delegation sent by Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, on behalf of his West African counterparts met opposition leaders in Lome on Tuesday.
Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the 14-party opposition coalition, said the meeting saw the parties agree on the location and form of any talks.
A joint committee was likely to set the agenda and deadline for the discussions, he told AFP, adding: “But this time, nothing will be imposed on us…
“We’ll fix a date, the terms and the length of the discussions together.”
The situation has reached stalemate, with each side blaming the other for violence.
Comi Toulabor, head of research at the Institute of Politics in Bordeaux, southwest France, said: “The government doesn’t appear in any way to want to give in to the street and the overtures it’s pretending to make aren’t really overtures.”
Gnassingbe “continues to sow terror and kills people using the same methods as his father” General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005.
Togo’s government promised in late September to hold a referendum on constitutional reform. But its proposal for a two-term presidential is not retroactive.
The opposition have objected, saying it would leave Gnassingbe free to stand at the next two elections in 2020 and 2025, and potentially be in power until 2030.
He has already won three elections since 2005.
In the meantime, the opposition said it will continue to hold peaceful marches until its demands are met.