The Togolese Republic, also known as Togo, sits in West Africa. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, and is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, Benin to the east, and Ghana on the west. Togo, with a population of over 7.3 million people, is 57,000 square kilometers (22,000 sq mi) in area. Togo’s capital is Lomé, located in the Gulf of Guinea. Togo is a sub-Saharan nation, with a good growing climate that supports its dependence on agriculture.
While many languages are spoken in Togo, mainly those of the Gbe family, French is its official language. People with indigenous beliefs make up the largest religious group, but Christians and Muslims also make up a significant minority. A United Nations member, Togo is also a member of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie and Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union.
Togo was initially populated by various tribes and later became a center for slave trade known as “The Slave Coast” in the 16th century. It was later a German colony until World War I when it was divided by England and France. In 1914 Togoland, became Togo. British Togoland eventually became part of Ghana and French Togoland, Togo, gained independence in 1960. After a coup in 1967 Gnassingbé Eyadéma served as president for 38 years and became the longest-serving leader in African history. After his death his son Faure Gnassingbé became president.
Between the 11th and 16th centuries various tribes such as those from Ghana and Nigeria entered the region with most settling in the costal areas. For the next two hundred years the coast became a major center for European slave trade and earned Togo and the nearby areas the reputation as “ The Slave Coast.” The Mina from Ghana were the most victimized by the slave trade.
In 1884 Germany signed a treaty at Togoville under the King Mlapa III, which declared Togoland a protectorate that stretched from the coast inland. This became the German colony of Togoland in 1905. After Germany was defeated in World War I, Britain and France administered Togoland as two League of Nations mandates. The mandates became UN Trust Territories after World War II. British Togoland joined the Gold Coast, which in 1957 became the independent nation of Ghana. In 1959, French Togoland became an autonomous republic of the French Union until its independence in 1960.
Slyvanus Olympio brought independence to Togo as prime minister and then President. Soldiers working for Sergeant Etienne Eyadéma Gnassingbe later assassinated him in a military coup on January 13, 1963. After the assassination, the head of the “Insurrection Committee,” Emmanuel Bodjollé appointed Nicolas Grunitzky president. However, 4 years later Grunitzky was overthrown in a non-violent coup by Eyadéma Gnassingbe. Eyadéma, Africa’s longest-sitting dictator, then ruled as president for 38 years until his death on February 5, 2005. In 1993, during his reign the European Union cut off aid in due to human rights concerns. His son, Faure Gnassingbé, was installed by the military as president, but this lead to an international outcry. However, France, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and other elected African leaders were supportive of the move. This support lead to dissent within the African Union.
Faure Gnassingbé responded by stepping down, but calling for elections two months later. While he won the elections there were claims by the opposition of election fraud. Violence ensued as a result of the elections with more than 400 people were killed, and an estimated 40,000 people fleeing to nearby countries. The countries reputation was again shaky in the international community as its promises in 2004 to the European Union to the establish democracy seemed to be in doubt.
Togo’s economy is small and depends on subsistence and commercial agriculture. When harvests are normal, Togo is self-sufficient for basic food goods with only occasional regional supply difficulties. Phosphate mining used to be the primary industrial activity, but due to increased foreign competition, and the collapse of world phosphate prices, Togo has been relying more on export of cement and clinker to nearby countries.
The economic reforms and foreign investments supported by the government, World Bank, and IMF have stalled. Several setbacks in the early 1990s such as strikes and political unrest hurt economic growth by shrinking the tax base and disrupting the economy. The devaluation of the currency in 1994 allowed structural adjustments, which were brought about by political stability returning. The regime depends on the armed forces to maintain its power, however a possible downsize and increased openness in government may be necessary for progress to continue.
Geography and Climate
The Togolese Republic, also known as Togo is a small West African country only 21,925 sq mi with an average density of 253 people per square mile. It extends south to the Bight of Benin, and is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, Benin to the east, and Ghana on the west. Contrasting the geography of the center of the country, mostly hills, the north is mostly rolling savanna and the south is both savanna and woodland plateau. The northern regions have a mostly dry savanna climate with an average temperature of 86 °F. Even though the average rainfall is low, the south has two rainy seasons, one in April that lasts four months and one in September that lasts three months. Lagoons and marshes make up the coastal plain area with an average temperature of 81.5 °F.
Togo is divided into the following regions: Savanes, Kara, Centrale, Plateaux and Maritime (from north to south). These regions are further divided into 30 prefectures and 1 commune.
According to a 2014 estimate, the population size is 7,351,374. The population has been growing steadily with a 2.71 percent growth rate. The rural villages are devoted to pastures or agriculture and house more than 50 percent of the population.
Of the 40 ethnic groups in Togo, the main groups are the Kabye’ in the north (22 percent), the Tchamba and Kotokoli in the center, and the largest group, the Ewe in the south (46 percent). The Ewe make up 21 percent of the population on the southern coast. Some consider the Ouatchi (14 percent) as a sub-group of the Ewe, while the French government considers them separate and divided the Ewe and Ouatchi in 1955. Another 8 percent are made up of the Mossi, Mina and Aja groups, and the remaining 1 percent are Europeans who are there for economic reasons or act as diplomats.
29 percent of the population is Christian and 20 percent is Muslim, however despite these influences over half of the population (51 percent) practices indigenous beliefs and native animistic practices.
French is the official language and language of commerce. Major African languages include Ewe and Gen in the south and Kabiyé and Kotokoli (or Tem) in the north.
Economics play a role in the health of the population with roughly half living below the international poverty line and a health expenditure at 8% of the GDP. According to 2014 figures, the infant mortality rate is at 46.73 deaths per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth is 53.34 for males and 66.71 for females.
Compulsory for six years, the educational system in Togo has struggled with teacher shortages, lower quality in rural areas and high dropout rates and grade repetition.
The movement towards democracy is in doubt in Togo. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s rule ended on February 5, 2005 when he became gravelly ill and died midflight over Tunisia while being transported by plane for care in another country. He had governed over a one party system during most of his rule. His successor should have been the President of the Parliament, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, until a new election within sixty days according to the Togolese constitution. However Natchaba was out of the country in Paris, and the Togolese army, known as Forces Armées Togolaises (FAT) closed the nation’s borders forcing his Air France plane to land in Benin instead. The army declared that the communications minister, Eyadéma’s son Faure Gnassingbé, would be the successor. The following day Parliament also changed the constitution retroactively so that Faure would finish out his father’s term and rule until the next elections in 2008. Faure Gnassingbé was sworn in February 7 2005 with parliament moving to remove Natchaba as president under the justification that he was out of the country.
The takeover received international criticism with the African Union calling it a military coup and the United Nations also putting on pressure. In Togo there were many riots and uprisings such as a large civilian uprising followed by a massacre by government troops in the town of Aného. This event went largely unreported and the total violence left several hundred dead mainly in the south. Faure Gnassingbé resigned on February 25th and agreed to hold new elections. However he accepted the nomination and ran again in April. On April 24 2005 he defeated his chief rival Robert Akitani from the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC). The official records note he won over 60 percent of the vote but fraud is suspected since there was no independent oversight such as the European Union. Other allegations are that ballot boxes were stolen from southern polling stations and shutdowns of telecommunications were imposed to impact the results. Until the inauguration Deputy President, Bonfoh Abbass, was declared the interim President by Parliament. Current president Faure Gnassingbé was sworn in on May 3, 2005.
Current Political Situation
After the 2005 election, the European Union supported the claims of the opposition by suspending aid to Togo. However, the United Sates and African Union considered that the vote was “reasonably fair.” With the intent of establishing a coalition government, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chair of the AU and president of Nigeria, tried to negotiate between the opposition and the incumbent government. However he rejected the AU Commission appointment of Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia, as a special AU envoy to Togo. In June, opposition leader Edem Kodjo was named by President Gnassingbé as Prime Minister.
Later that year in August the government and the opposition signed the Ouagadougou agreement, which called for a transitional government that would organize parliamentary elections. However on September 16, 2005 the president snubbed the major opposition party, Union of the Forces of Change (UFC), by nominating a member of the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) as prime minster. The UFC responded by refusing to join the government. On September 20, 2006, professor Léopold Gnininvi member of the Democratic Convention of African Peoples (CDPA) was appointed.
Elections finally took place in October 2007 after several delays. These elections used proportional representation, which allowed the less densely populated north to have the same number of MPs as the more heavily populated south.
The Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party, which was backed by the president, won the outright majority. However the election was the subject of fraud allegations such as illegal voting and cancelled ballots, mostly in RPT strongholds, despite the presence of EU observers. Ultimately the international community considered the election fair and praised the system since there was little violence or intimidation. This was a first since a multiparty system was reinstated. The UFC came in second and other parties did not have significant representation. On December 3, 2007 RPT member Komlan Mally was appointed as Agboyibor’s successor as prime minster. This was short lived as he resigned less than a year later on September 5, 2008.
In a relatively peaceful election in March of 2010, Faure Gnassingbé won 61 percent of the vote against his UFC member Jean-Pierre Fabre who was backed by the Republican Front for Change (FRAC).
Many ethnic groups influence the culture of Togo, predominantly the Ewe, Tchamba, Tem, Mina, and Kabre. While French is the official language of Togo, other languages include indigenous ones including Mina, Aja, Ewe, Kotokoli, Bassar, Akessele, Kabiyé, and Losso.
Culture and indigenous beliefs are displayed through art work such as statuary, wood carvings, and hunting trophies rather than the more common African masks. The famous statuettes of the Ewe are created for the worship of the ibeji. Another prominent example is the “chains of marriage” wood carving from the artisanal center of Kloto which uses only one piece of wood to show two characters connected through rings. They also use dyed fabric batiks to create colorful stylized depictions of the average day of their ancestors. Also famous are the ceremonial loincloths of the weavers of Assahoun. The wind swept arid lands inspire painter Sokey Edorh. Finally one can see the pyroengraving (“zota”) plastic works for internationally recognized technician Paul Ahyi in the capital city of Lomé.
At the Olympics
Togo made won its first medal ever on August 12, 2008 with a bronze from Benjamin Boukpeti (son of a Togolese father and French mother) in the Men’s K1 Kayak Slalom.
While football is the most popular sport, Togo was a minor presence internationally until recently when they qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Emmanuel Adebayor, considered the star player, is often credited with their qualification. Unfortunately their participation was plagued by scandal such as problems within the Togolese Football Association and between the association and players regarding financial bonuses. Ultimately the team coach, Otto Pfister, resigned and a potential boycott of their game against Switzerland was averted when FIFA satisfied the players’ demands. In the following months two other players were dismissed over negative remarks about the association’s management.
While Togo was knocked out of the tournament, it did develop a “Supporters Club” in such places as Scotland and Ireland.
The Togo National Football team made the news again in January 2010 when their team bus was fired upon while they were attending the African Nations cup in Angola. Two players were injured and the team spokesman, bus driver, and assistant coach were killed. At the request of the government, the Togo team withdrew from the tournament.