Togo won his independence from France in 1960. Gnassingbé Eyadéma took power in 1967, and when he died in 2005 he was the longest-serving national leader in African history. Many Togolese were disappointed when his son Faure Gnassingbé took over in a coup just after his death. Following international pressure, Gnassingbé held elections later that year, where he was elected.
Today’s Togo was part of the German colony of Togoland until the end of the First World War, and was a French colony until 1960. In 1963, Gnassingbé Eyadéma led a successful military coup. The country’s first president Sylvanus Olympio was killed, and many claimed that it was Eyadéma who carried out the killing itself. The power was given to Nicolas Grynischi, but in 1966 he was also removed, and Eyadéma took over the leadership role himself. In 1969, he founded the Rally for the Togolese People (RTP) party, and other parties were banned. Togo had become a one-party state.
Ruled with Iron Hand
President Gnassingbe Eyadéma ruled the small West African country, sometimes with iron hands, for 38 years before he died. In the early 1990s, the international community began to put pressure on Eyadéma to democratize. Pro-democracy activists, mostly from ethnic groups mina and Ewe, were met by armed forces, and many activists were killed in the riots.
People in Togo and France were furious. Eyadéma eventually had to give in. He lost almost all power and was for a time president only in the name. The country got a temporary prime minister, but after only four months his residence was shelled by the military. Attacks on the independent press and political murders became commonplace, while the promised development against democracy stopped. The opposition organized strikes, which led to the use of even more violence by the military.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled to neighboring Ghana and Benin. Two opposition parties were prevented from taking part in the 1993 elections, and Eyadéma eventually won by an incredible 96 percent of the vote. In the 1998 election, Eyadéma won with 52 percent of the vote, almost bypassed by Gilchrist Olympio’s son,
On February 5, 2005, Eyadéma died. The leader of the National Assembly, who in such cases is to temporarily take over power pending elections, was abroad, and on his way back to Togo he was refused entry. He was thus prevented from taking power, although he also represented the ruling party RTP. Shortly after, the military appointed Eyadéma’s son Faure Gnassingbé as the country’s new leader. The African Union (AU) described the takeover as a coup, and the UN also pressured the country. There were riots, and Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections in April 2005. The country gained a temporary president until then.
On May 3, 2005, Gnassingbé was re-elected president, after receiving 60 percent of the vote, according to official figures. The EU cut support for the country after the election, while the US and the AU thought the election had been “reasonably fair.” The opposition and large sections of the population were not satisfied, and new riots came, killing an unknown number of people. Togolese fled again to Ghana and Benin.
Negotiations were held to establish cooperation between the government and the opposition, and in June 2005, the leader of the moderate opposition, Edem Kodjo, became prime minister. In August 2006, the government and the more radical opposition signed a contract for a transitional government. Agboyibor from the CAR opposition party became prime minister, and remained there until October 2007.
Togo has been relatively stable following what happened in 2005 and 2006. In March 2010, a new election was held, and Gnassingbé declared himself the winner. The atmosphere afterwards was tense and awaiting, with a large military presence in the center of Lomé.
In 2008, a voluntary return program for Togolese refugees started in Ghana. Most of these refugees have now returned. Some of the refugees had been out of the country since the riots in 1992 and 1993.
Phosphate, cotton, coffee, cocoa, cement and zinc are among the most important export goods from Togo. Several countries in the region have discovered oil fields, and some countries receive assistance from Norway through Oil for Development. Even after some fields have also been discovered in Togo, the country has not been included in the good company or attracted any interest from investors – perhaps due to previous governance. One would think that fish was important to the economy, but here it is probably larger non-Togolese boats that bring “the big fish.” Pirate fishing in waters off West Africa means that there is little catch for the regular angler.
The EU’s political and economic boycott of Togo in the last 15 years before Eyadema’s death has greatly affected the country. This is expressed through roads that are not maintained, public buildings that are dilapidated and corruption. At the end of 2007, cooperation between the EU and Togo was resumed. If compared with other roughly as poor countries in Africa, there are still few aid organizations operating in the country.
According to Country.com, 51 percent of the population practice traditional religion, 29 percent are Christians and 20 percent are Muslims. You often mix the traditional with the “new” religions, and you see no major conflicts between, for example, Christians and Muslims.
French is the official language, otherwise ewe, kotokololi, bassar, moba, losso and kabye are among the biggest languages. There are around 50 languages and dialects in the country.
Togo’s population is growing rapidly, and is currently estimated at around 6.3 million. 65 percent of the population live in villages where they feed on agriculture or livestock. 62 percent of the urban population lives in slums. Half the population lives below the poverty line of $ 1.25 per day.
One of the largest markets in Lomé is run by the famous Nanas Benz. Nana comes from Matron and Benz because they became known for their love of luxury cars and especially Mercedes Benz. Women represent a power of importance, also political, that emerged especially in the 1970s and 1980s. They organize, promote their interests and organize large parts of the trade. The women run a large shop, especially with drugs. Profits vary, but Togo is strategically located for regional and international trade. The Nana’s have probably lost power compared to what they had, but have been a role model for many girls and women when it comes to gaining money and power through organization, effort and hard work.
Area: 56 785 km2 (41st largest)
Population: 6.5 million
Population density: 114 per km2
Urban population: 41 percent
Largest city: Lomé – approx. 1.45 million
GDP per capita: USD 446
Economic growth: 1.1 percent
HDI Position: 159