Togo (officially the Togolese Republic) is a country in West Africa bordering Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million.
Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a low climate providing good growing seasons. The official language is French; however, there are many other languages spoken in Togo. Approximately one half of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Togo gained its independence from France in 1960. In 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma led a successful military coup, after which he became president. Eyadéma was the longest-serving leader in African history (after being president for 38 years) at the time of his death in 2005. In 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbé was elected president.
Western history does not record what happened in Togo after the Portuguese arrived in the late 15th century. During the period from the 11th century to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions: the Ewé from Nigeria and Benin; and the Mina and Guin from Ghana. Most settled in coastal areas.
When the slave trade began in earnest in the 16th century, the Mina benefited the most. For the next two hundred years, the coastal region was a major raiding center for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”.
In an 1854 treaty signed at Togoville, France declared a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its control inland. This became the German colony Togoland in 1905. After the German defeat during World War I in August 1914 at the hands of British troops (coming from the Gold Coast) and French troops (coming from Dahomey), Togoland became two League of Nations mandates, administered by the United Kingdom and France. After World War II, these mandates became UN Trust Territories. The residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana, and French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union.
Independence came in 1960 under Sylvanus Olympio. Sylvanus Olympio was assassinated in a military coup on 13 January 1963 by a group of soldiers under the direction of Sergeant Etienne Eyadema Gnassingbe. Opposition leader Nicolas Grunitzky was appointed president by the “Insurrection Committee” headed by Emmanuel Bodjollé. However, on 13 January 1967, Eyadema Gnassingbe overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency, which he held from that date until his sudden death on 5 February 2005.
Eyadema Gnassingbe died in early 2005 after thirty-eight years in power, as Africa’s longest-sitting dictator. The military’s immediate but short-lived installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president provoked widespread international condemnation, except from France. However, some democratically elected African leaders such as Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, supported that move, thereby creating a rift within the African Union. Faure Gnassingbé stood down and called elections which he won two months later. The opposition claimed that the election was fraudulent. The developments of 2005 led to renewed questions about a commitment to democracy made by Togo in 2004 in a bid to normalize ties with the European Union, which cut off aid in 1993 over the country’s human rights record. Moreover, up to 400 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presidential poll, according to the United Nations. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighbouring countries.
Togo’s small sub-Saharan economy is heavily dependent on both commercial and subsistence agriculture, which provides employment for 65% of the labor force. Cotton, coffee, and cocoa together generate about 40% of export earnings. Togo is self-sufficient in basic food goods when harvests are normal, with occasional regional supply difficulties. In the industrial sector, phosphate mining is no longer the most important activity, as cement and clinker export to neighboring countries have taken over. It has suffered from the collapse of world phosphate prices, increased foreign competition and financial problems. Togo’s GNI per capita is US$380 (World Bank, 2005).
Phosphate mining by SNPT company.Togo serves as a regional commercial and trade center. The government‘s decade-long effort, supported by the World Bank and the IMF, to implement economic reform measures, encourage foreign investment, and bring revenues in line with expenditures, has stalled. Political unrest, including private and public sector strikes throughout 1992 and 1993, jeopardized the reform program, shrank the tax base, and disrupted vital economic activity. The 12 January 1994 devaluation of the currency by 50% provided an important impetus to renewed structural adjustment; these efforts were facilitated by the end of strife in 1994 and a return to overt political calm. Progress depends on increased openness in government financial operations (to accommodate increased social service outlays) and possible downsizing of the military, on which the regime has depended to stay in place. Lack of aid, along with depressed cocoa prices, generated a 1% fall in GDP in 1998, with growth resuming in 1999. Assuming no deterioration of the political atmosphere, growth is expected to rise.
Togo is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
Togo is a small, narrow West African nation. It borders the Bight of Benin in the south; Ghana lies to the west; Benin to the east; and to the north Togo is bound by Burkina Faso.
In the north the land is characterized by a gently rolling savanna in contrast to the center of the country, which is characterized by hills. The south of Togo is characterized by a savanna and woodland plateau which reaches to a coastal plain with extensive lagoons and marshes. The land size is 21,925 sq mi (56,785 km2), with an average population density of 253 people per square mile (98/km²). In 1914 it changed from Togoland to Togo.
The climate is generally tropical with average temperatures ranging from 27°C on the coast to about 30°C in the northernmost regions, with a dry climate and characteristics of a tropical savanna. To the south there are two seasons of rain (the first between April and July and the second between October and November), even though the average rainfall is not very high.
Togo is divided into 5 regions, which are subdivided in turn into 30 prefectures and 1 commune. From north to south the regions are Savanes, Kara, Centrale, Plateaux and Maritime.
Togolese women in Sokodé.With an estimated population of 6,619,000 (as of 2009), Togo is the 107th largest country by population. Most of the population (65%) live in rural villages dedicated to agriculture or pastures. The population of Togo shows a strong growth: from 1961 (the year after independence) to 2003 it quintupled.
In Togo there are about 40 different ethnic groups, the most numerous are the Ewe in the south (46%) (Although along the south coastline they account for 21% of the population), Kotokoli and Tchamba in the center, Kabyé in the north (22%). Another classification lists Uaci or Ouatchis (14%) as a separate ethnic group from the Ewe which brings the proportion of Ewe down to (32%). However, there are no historic or ethnic facts that justify the separation between Ewes and Ouatchis. On the contrary, the term Ouatchi relates to a subgroup of Ewes which migrated south during the 16th century from Notse the ancient Ewe Kingdom capital. This classification is inaccurate and has been contested for being politically biased; Mina, Mossi, and Aja (about 8%) are the remainder; and under 1% are European expatriates who live in Togo as diplomats and for economic reasons. The Ouatchis are a sub-group of the Ewe just as the Anlo in the Republic of Ghana are a subgroup of the Ewe ethnic group.
Mosque in Sokodé.Approximately 29% of the population is Christian, 20% are Muslim, and 51% have indigenous beliefs.
Health expenditure was at US$ 63 (PPP) in 2004.Infant mortality was at 78 per 1,000 live births in 2005.Male life expectancy at birth was at 56 in 2005, whereas it was at 59.6 for females. There were 4 physicians per 100,000 people in the early 2000s.
Togo’s transition to democracy is stalled. Its democratic institutions remain nascent and fragile. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo under a one-party system for nearly twenty-five of his thirty-seven years in power, died of a heart attack on 5 February 2005. Gravelly ill, he was being transported by plane to a foreign country for care but could not make it. He died over Tunisia. Under the Togolese Constitution, the President of the Parliament, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, should have become President of the country, pending a new presidential election to be called within sixty days. Natchaba was out of the country, returning on an Air France plane from Paris. The Togolese army, known as Forces Armées Togolaises (FAT) – [or Togolese Armed Forces] closed the nation’s borders, forcing the plane to land in nearby Benin. With an engineered power vacuum, the army announced that Eyadéma’s son Faure Gnassingbé, who had been the communications minister, would succeed him. However, on 6 February 2005, the Parliament retroactively changed the Constitution, declaring that Faure would hold office for the rest of his father’s term, with elections deferred until 2008. The stated justification was that Natchaba was out of the country. The parliament also moved to remove Natchaba as president and replaced him with Faure Gnassingbé, who was sworn in on 7 February 2005, despite international criticism of the succession.
The African Union described the takeover as a military coup d’état. International pressure came also from the United Nations. Within Togo, opposition to the takeover culminated in riots in which several hundred died. There were uprisings in many cities and towns, mainly located in the southern part of the country. In the town of Aného reports of a general civilian uprising followed by a large scale massacre by government troops went largely unreported. In response, Faure Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections and on 25 February, Gnassingbé resigned as president, but soon afterward accepted the nomination to run for the office in April. On 24 April 2005, Gnassingbé was elected President of Togo, receiving over 60% of the vote according to official results. His main rival in the race had been Robert (Bob) Akitani from the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) [or Union of Forces for Change]. However electoral fraud was suspected, due to a lack of European Union or other independent oversight.Parliament designated Deputy President, Bonfoh Abbass, as interim president until the inauguration.
Current political situation
On 3 May 2005, Faure Gnassingbe was sworn in as the new president, garnering 60% of the vote according to official results. The opposition again alleged electoral fraud, claiming the military stole ballot boxes from various polling stations in the south, and that telecommunications shutdowns were deliberately imposed to affect the results.The European Union suspended aid to Togo in support of the opposition claims, unlike the African Union and the United States which declared the vote “reasonably fair.” The Nigerian president and Chair of the AU, Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ, sought to negotiate between the incumbent government and the opposition to establish a coalition government, but rejected an AU Commission appointment of former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, as special AU envoy to Togo. In June, President Gnassingbe named opposition leader Edem Kodjo as the prime Minister.
Reconciliation talks between government and opposition continued until Gnassingbé Eyadema’s death in June 2005. In August both parties signed the Ouagadougou agreement calling for a transitional government to organize parliamentary elections. On 16 September, the president nominated Yaovi Agboyibor of the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) prime minister, snubbing the major opposition party Union of the Forces of Change (UFC) which in reaction refused to join the government. Professor Léopold Gnininvi of the Democratic Convention of African Peoples (CDPA) was appointed on 20 September 2006.
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In October 2007, after several postponements, elections were held under proportional representation. This allowed the less populated north to seat as many MPs as the more populated south. The president-backed party Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) won outright majority with the UFC coming second and the other parties claiming inconsequential representation. Again vote rigging accusations were leveled at the RPT supported by the civil and military security apparatus. Despite the presence of an EU observer mission, cancelled ballots and illegal voting took place, the majority of which in RPT strongholds. The election was declared fair by the international community and praised as a model with little intimidation and few violent acts for the first time since a multiparty system was reinstated. On 3 December 2007 Komlan Mally of the RPT was appointed to prime minister succeeding Agboyibor. However, on 5 September 2008, after only 10 months in office, Mally resigned as prime minister of Togo.
On 7 September 2008, President Faure Gnassingbé appointed Houngbo as Prime Minister; he replaced Komlan Mally, who resigned two days earlier. His appointment as Prime Minister was read out in a decree by Kouessan Yovodevi, the Director of National Television, who stated, “Mr Houngbo is Prime Minister”.Houngbo took office as Prime Minister on 8 September. Houngbo was a relatively obscure figure in Togo prior to his appointment as Prime Minister, and his appointment was regarded as surprising.
Houngbo holds an advanced degree in business management from the University of Lomé in Togo, as well as a degree in accounting and finance from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières in Canada. He is a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Houngbo was a member of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strategic Management Team and was its Director of Finance and Administration before being appointed as the UNDP Chief of Staff in 2003. He was subsequently appointed as United Nations Assistant Secretary General, Assistant Administrator of the UNDP, and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on December 29, 2005.
Houngbo travelled to the UN Headquarters in New York on 11 September for a visit to mark his departure from the UN. He met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 11 September, and Ban congratulated him on his achievements at the UNDP. His government was named on 15 September 2008. It included 27 ministers, aside from Houngbo himself: three ministers of state (one of whom was Houngbo’s predecessor, Komlan Mally), 20 ministers, two minister-delegates, and two secretaries of state. Houngbo presented his general policy programme to the National Assembly on 16 September. Of the 80 deputies who participated in the vote on Houngbo’s programme, 50 (representing the ruling Rally of the Togolese People) voted in favor of it; the opposition Union of Forces for Change voted against it, while the opposition Action Committee for Renewal abstained.
However, the presidential election of 2010 presents a different challenge with no proportional representation effect to balance for geographic location. The executive power is mainly presidential and this showdown fallout will really determine how far the country has come in terms of democratic rules.
Many[who?] see the recent developments in Togo as a power struggle or a strategy to disturb the upcoming presidential election. In fact, on Sunday 12 April 2009, in the middle of the night, a gun battle between two groups belonging to the national armed forces took place in and around the residence of Kpatcha Gnassingbé for nearly three hours.
Kpatcha Gnassingbé is President’s Faure’s half-brother and was elected member of the Parliament for the Kozah district, a stronghold for the Rally of the Togolese People in the north of Togo. He is known to be a ruthless and violent individual whose ambition for the presidency is known to everyone. It is alleged that his militia helped Faure significantly to secure power after their father’s death in 2005. But to his followers, he is a very generous man who just handed out bank notes to people, just like his father, the defunct President, used to do.
The day following the gun battle at his residence, Kpatcha Gnassingbé called a press conference and told reporters that his brother (Faure) wanted him dead. Official accounts of the events said that he was preparing a coup after his brother, who was supposed to travel to China on official business, departed the country.
Several military and civilians were arrested after the gun fight and on 15 April 2009, Kpatcha Gnassingbé was arrested at the entrance of the United States embassy. According to official reports, security forces went to his residence to serve him an arrest warrant. He managed to get away and sought refuge at the U.S. embassy located just a whisker away from his house. The embassy security did not let him inside the building. He was kept in the security area. The building was surrounded by men in uniforms and there was no possible get-away. Talks were initiated and he was cuffed and led away. Later that day, judiciary authorities presented before the national television guns, ammunition and various military equipment that were said to have been found at Kpatcha Gnassingbé’s house.
On 17 April 2009, another half-brother of the President, Essolizam Edem Gnassingbé, who was fairly unknown until then, was also arrested. He had led the successful political party which gained Togo its’ independence from France.
The investigation is still going on and this story is certainly far from over.
Traditional Taberma housesSee also: Music of Togo
Togo’s culture reflects the influences of its many ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, Tem, Tchamba and Kabre.
French is the official language of Togo. The many indigenous African languages spoken by Togolese include: Gbe languages such as Ewe, Mina, and Aja; Kotokoli, Akessele, Bassar, Losso Kabiyé; and others.
Despite the influences of Christianity and Islam, over half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs.
Ewe statuary is characterized by its famous statuettes which illustrate the worship of the ibeji. Sculptures and hunting trophies were used rather than the more ubiquitous African masks. The wood-carvers of Kloto are famous for their “chains of marriage“: two characters are connected by rings drawn from only one piece of wood.
The dyed fabric batiks of the artisanal center of Kloto represent stylized and coloured scenes of ancient everyday life. The loincloths used in the ceremonies of the weavers of Assahoun are famous. Works of the painter Sokey Edorh are inspired by the immense arid extents, swept by the harmattan, and where the laterite keeps the prints of the men and the animals. The plastics technician Paul Ahyi is internationally recognized today. He practices the “zota”, a kind of pyroengraving, and his monumental achievements decorate Lomé.
Education in Togo is compulsory for six years. In 1996, the gross primary enrollment rate was 119.6 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 81.3 percent. The education system has suffered from teacher shortages, lower educational quality in rural areas, and high repetition and dropout rates.
As in much of Africa, football is the most popular sporting pursuit. Until 2006, Togo was very much a minor force in world football, but like fellow West African nations such as Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon (which like Togo is located in Central Africa) before them, the Togolese national team finally qualified for the World Cup. Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor was the force behind that unexpected qualification.
Although Togo’s qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was historic, its participation was marred by incidents and headlines. There were internal problems within the Togolese Football Association (Fédération Togolaise de Football – FTF) as well as between players and the Football Association. The culmination of that conflict led to the resignation of the national team coach, Otto Pfister, and the threat made by the players not to play their game against Switzerland on 16 June 2006. Ultimately, the FIFA stepped in to satisfy the players’ requirements and the first boycott of a FIFA World Cup game never happened.
Until his dismissal from the team over a long-standing bonus dispute, Emmanuel Adebayor was largely considered the side’s star player. He currently plays for English Premiership club Manchester City. Togo was knocked out of the tournament in the group stage after losing to South Korea, Switzerland and France.
Togo’s 2006 World Cup appearance was marred by a dispute over financial bonuses, a situation that almost led to the team boycotting their match against Switzerland. Eventually, Togo did fulfill all three fixtures, failing to qualify for the second round of the competition. Over the following months, the stalemate has continued to mar Togolese football, and eventually resulted in the dismissal of strike pair Emmanuel Adebayor and Kader Coubadja-Touré, and defender Nibombé Daré in March 2007, ostensibly for “indecent remarks concerning the FTF management.”
After their outings as World Cup underdogs, Togo gained support throughout the world. For example, Togo has a “Supporters Club” in Levenmouth in Scotland, whilst the Newry Togo Supporters Club has its own bar as a venue in Newry, Northern Ireland.
On 12 August 2008, Benjamin Boukpeti (born to a Togolese father and a French mother) won a bronze medal in the Men’s K1 Kayak Slalom, the first medal ever won by a member of the Togolese team at the Olympics.