Togolese security forces on Friday prevented an opposition demonstration in Lome against a constitutional reform fuelling political tensions with the government.

Opposition parties had called on Togolese to turn out "massively" in the streets of the capital on Friday and Saturday, despite a ban on the protest by authorities.

The constitutional change has been highly contested in the West African state, with critics seeing a bid by loyalists to keep President Faure Gnassingbe in power longer.

The government has delayed legislative elections on April 20 to give more time for discussions on the reform and set a new date of April 29 for the ballot.

Street demonstrations have been banned in Togo since 2022, after an attack on a large market in Lome during which a gendarme was killed.

Only two opposition leaders, Jean-Pierre Fabre of the National Alliance for Change (ANC), and Paul Dodji Apevon of the Democratic Forces for the Republic (FDR), arrived for the protest at the rallying point in the Be-Gakpoto district, an opposition stronghold.

After a short exchange with the police posted at the site, the opposition leaders decided to leave.

"Today, mobilisation has been difficult because for several days, the government has deployed security forces," Nathaniel Olympio, president of the Parti des Togolais (PT) told AFP.

"This has likely impacted turnout as we know the capacity for repression by this regime."

For the opposition, the new constitution, which would move Togo from a presidential to a parliamentary system, is a way for Gnassingbe to remain in power.

He came to office in 2005, succeeding his father who had remained in power for nearly 38 years following a coup.

Since taking over, the president has been re-elected in several elections that have all been contested as fraudulent by the opposition.