The Ewes moved into the area which is now Togo from the Niger River
valley between the 12th and 14th centuries. During the 15th and 16th centuries,
Portuguese explorers and traders visited the coast. For the next 200 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 1884 treaty signed at Togoville, Germany declared a protectorate
over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its
control inland. Because it became Germany's only self-supporting colony,
Togoland was known as its model possession. In 1914, Togoland was invaded
by French and British forces and fell after brief resistance. Following
the war, Togoland became a League of Nations mandate divided for administrative
purposes between France and the United Kingdom.
After World War II, the mandate became a UN trust territory administered
by the United Kingdom and France. During the mandate and trusteeship periods,
western Togo was administered as part of the British Gold Coast. In 1957,
the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part
of the new independent nation of Ghana.
By statute in 1955, French Togo became an autonomous republic within
the French union, although it retained its UN trusteeship status. A legislative
assembly elected by universal adult suffrage had considerable power over
internal affairs, with an elected executive body headed by a prime minister
responsible to the legislature. These changes were embodied in a constitution
approved in a 1956 referendum. On September 10, 1956, Nicholas Grunitzky
became prime minister of the Republic of Togo. However, due to irregularities
in the plebiscite, an unsupervised general election was held in 1958 and
won by Sylvanus Olympio. On April 27, 1960, in a smooth transition, Togo
severed its constitutional ties with France, shed its UN trusteeship status,
and became fully independent under a provisional constitution with Olympio
A new constitution in 1961 established an executive president, elected
for 7 years by universal suffrage and a weak National Assembly. The president
was empowered to appoint ministers and dissolve the assembly, holding a
monopoly of executive power. In elections that year, from which Grunitzky's
party was disqualified, Olympio's party won 90% of the vote and all 51
National Assembly seats, and he became Togo's first elected president.
During this period, four principal political parties existed in Togo:
the leftist Juvento (Togolese youth movement); the Union Democratique des
Populations Togolaises (IDPT); the Parti Togolais Du Progres (PTP), founded
by Grunitzky but having limited support; and the Unite Togolaise (UT),
the party of President Olympio. Rivalries between elements of these parties
had begun as early as the 1940s, and they came to a head with Olympio dissolving
the opposition parties in January 1962 ostensibly because of plots against
the majority party government. Many opposition members, including Grunitzky,
fled to avoid arrest.
On January 13, 1963, President Olympio was assassinated in an uprising
of army non-commissioned officers dissatisfied with conditions following
their discharge from the French army. Grunitzky returned from exile 2 days
later to head a provisional government with the title of prime minister.
On May 5, 1963, the Togolese adopted a new constitution which reinstated
a multi-party system, chose deputies from all political parties for the
National Assembly, and elected Grunitzky as president and Antoine Meatchi
as vice president. Nine days later, President Grunitzky formed a government
in which all parties were represented.
During the next several years, the Grunitzky government's power became
insecure. On November 21, 1966, an attempt to overthrow Grunitzky, inspired
principally by civilian political opponents in the UT party, was unsuccessful.
Grunitzky then tried to lessen his reliance on the army, but on January
13, 1967, Lt. Col. Etienne Eyadema (later Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema) ousted
President Grunitzky in a bloodless military coup. Political parties were
banned, and all constitutional processes were suspended. The committee
of national reconciliation ruled the country until April 14, when Eyadema
assumed the presidency. In late 1969, a single national political party,
the Assembly of the Togolese People (RPT), was created, and President Eyadema
was elected party president on November 29, 1969. In 1972, a national referendum,
in which Eyadema ran unopposed, confirmed his role as the country's president.
In late 1979, Eyadema declared a third republic and a transition to
greater civilian rule with a mixed civilian and military cabinet. He garnered
99.97% of the vote in uncontested presidential elections held in late 1979
and early 1980. A new constitution also provided for a national assembly
to serve primarily as a consultative body. Eyadema was reelected to a third
consecutive 7-year term in December 1986 with 99.5% of the vote in an uncontested
election. On September 23, 1986, a group of some 70 armed Togolese dissidents
crossed into Lome from Ghana in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the
In 1989 and 1990, Togo, like many other countries, was affected by the
winds of democratic change sweeping eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
On October 5, 1990, the trial of students who handed out antigovernment
tracts sparked riots in Lome. Antigovernment demonstrations and violent
clashes with the security forces marked the months that followed. In April
1991, the government began negotiations with newly formed opposition groups
and agreed to a general amnesty that permitted exiled political opponents
to return to Togo. After a general strike and further demonstrations, the
government and opposition signed an agreement to hold a "national forum"
on June 12, 1991.
The national forum, dominated by opponents of President Eyadema, opened
in July 1991 and immediately declared itself to be a sovereign "National
Conference." Although subjected to severe harassment from the government,
the conference drafted an interim constitution calling for a 1-year transitional
regime tasked with organizing free elections for a new government. The
conference selected Joseph Kokou Koffigoh, a lawyer and human rights group
head, as transitional prime minister but kept President Eyadema as chief
of state for the transition, although with limited powers.
A test of wills between the president and his opponents followed over
the next 3 years during which President Eyadema gradually gained the upper
hand. Frequent political paralysis and intermittent violence marked this
period. Following a vote by the transitional legislature (High Council
of the Republic) to dissolve the President's political party--the RPT--in
November 1991, the army attacked the prime minister's office on December
3 and captured the prime minister. Koffigoh then formed a second transition
government in January 1992 with substantial participation by ministers
from the President's party. Opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, son of
the slain president Sylvanus Olympio, was ambushed and seriously wounded
apparently by soldiers on May 5, 1992.
In July and August 1992, a commission composed of presidential and opposition
representatives negotiated a new political agreement. On September 27,
the public overwhelmingly approved the text of a new, democratic constitution,
formally initiating Togo's fourth republic.
The democratic process was set back in October 1992, when elements of
the army held the interim legislature hostage for 24 hours. This effectively
put an end to the interim legislature. In retaliation, on November 16,
opposition political parties and labor unions declared a general strike
intended to force President Eyadema to agree to satisfactory conditions
for elections. The general strike largely shut down Lome for months and
resulted in severe damage to the economy.
In January 1993, President Eyadema declared the transition at an end
and reappointed Koffigoh as prime minister under Eyadema's authority. This
set off public demonstrations, and, on January 25, members of the security
forces fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing at least 19. In the ensuing
days, several security force members were waylaid and injured or killed
by civilian oppositionists. On January 30, 1994, elements of the military
went on an 8-hour rampage throughout Lome, firing indiscriminately and
killing at least 12 people. This incident provoked more than 300,000 Togolese
to flee Lome for Benin, Ghana, or the interior of Togo. Although most had
returned by early 1996, some still remain abroad.
On March 25, 1993, armed Togolese dissident commandos based in Ghana
attacked Lome's main military camp and tried unsuccessfully to kill President
Eyadema. They inflicted significant casualties, however, which set off
lethal reprisals by the military against soldiers thought to be associated
with the attackers.
Under substantial domestic and foreign pressure and the burden of the
general strike, the presidential faction entered negotiations with the
opposition in early 1993. Four rounds of talks led to the July 11 Ouagadougou
agreement setting forth conditions for upcoming presidential and legislative
elections and ending the general strike as of August 3, 1993. The presidential
elections were set for August 25, but hasty and inadequate technical preparations,
concerns about fraud, and the lack of effective campaign organization by
the opposition led the chief opposition candidates--former minister and
Organization of African Unity Secretary General Edem Kodjo and lawyer Yawovi
Agboyibo--to drop out of the race before election day and to call for a
boycott. President Eyadema won the elections by a 96.42% vote against token
opposition. About 36% of the voters went to the polls; the others boycotted.
Ghana-based armed dissidents launched a new commando attack on military
sites in Lome in January 1994. President Eyadema was unhurt, and the attack
and subsequent reaction by the Togolese armed forces resulted in hundreds
of deaths, mostly civilian. The government went ahead with legislative
elections on February 6 and February 20, 1994. In generally free and fair
polls as witnessed by international observers, the allied opposition parties
UTD and CAR together won a narrow majority in the National Assembly. On
April 22, President Eyadema named Edem Kodjo, the head of the smaller opposition
party, the UTD, as prime minister instead of Yawovi Agboyibo, whose CAR
party had far more seats. Kodjo's acceptance of the post of prime minister
provoked the CAR to break the opposition alliance and refuse to join the
Kodjo was then forced to form a governing coalition with the RPT. Kodjo's
government emphasized economic recovery, building democratic institutions
and the rule of law and the return of Togolese refugees abroad. In early
1995, the government made slow progress toward its goals, aided by the
CAR's August 1995 decision to end a 9-month boycott of the National Assembly.
However, Kodjo was forced to reshuffle his government in late 1995, strengthening
the representation by Eyadema's RPT party, and he resigned in August 1996.
Since then, Eyadema has reemerged with a sure grip on power, controlling
most aspects of government.
In the June 1998 presidential election, the government prevented citizens
from effectively exercising the right to vote. The Interior Ministry declared
Eyadema the winner with 52% of the vote in the 1998 election; however,
serious irregularities in the government's conduct of the election strongly
favored the incumbent and appear to have affected the outcome materially.
Although the government did not obstruct the functioning of political opponents
openly, the President used the strength of the military and his government
allies to intimidate and harass citizens and opposition groups. The government
and the state remained highly centralized: President Eyadema's national
government appointed the officials and controlled the budgets of all subnational
government entities, including prefectures and municipalities, and influenced
the selection of traditional chiefs.
The second multi-party legislative elections of Eyadema's 33-year rule
were held on March 21, 1999. However, the opposition boycotted the election,
in which the ruling party won 79 of the 81 seats in the National Assembly.
Those two seats went to candidates from little-known independent parties.
Procedural problems and significant fraud, particularly misrepresentation
of voter turnout marred the legislative elections.
After the legislative election, the government announced that it would
continue to pursue dialog with the opposition. In June 1999, the RPT and
opposition parties met in Paris, in the presence of facilitators representing
France, Germany, the European Union, and La Francophonie (an international
organization of French-speaking countries), to agree on security measures
for formal negotiations in Lome. In July 1999, the government and the opposition
began discussions, and on July 29, 1999, all sides signed an accord called
the "Lome Framework Agreement," which included a pledge by President Eyadema
that he would respect the constitution and not seek another term as president
after his current one expires in 2003. The accord also called for the negotiation
of a legal status for opposition leaders, as well as for former heads of
state (such as their immunity from prosecution for acts in office). In
addition, the accord addressed the rights and duties of political parties
and the media, the safe return of refugees, and the security of all citizens.
The accord also contained a provision for compensating victims of political
violence. The President also agreed to dissolve the National Assembly in
March and hold new legislative elections, which would be supervised by
an independent national election commission (CENI) and which would use
the single-ballot method to protect against some of the abuses of past
elections. However, the March 2000 date passed without presidential action,
and new legislative elections were ultimately rescheduled for October 2001.
Because of funding problems and disagreements between the government and
opposition, the elections were again delayed, this time until March 2002.
In May 2002 the government scrapped CENI, blaming the opposition for
its inability to function. In its stead, the government appointed seven
magistrates to oversee preparations for legislative elections. Not surprisingly,
the opposition announced it would boycott them. Held in October, as a result
of the opposition’s boycott the government party won more than two-thirds
of the seats in the National Assembly. In December 2002, Eyadema’s government
used this rubber-stamp parliament to amend Togo’s constitution, allowing
President Eyadema to run for an “unlimited” number of terms. A further
amendment stated that candidates must reside in the country for at least
12 months before an election, a provision that barred the participation
in the upcoming presidential election of popular Union des Forces du Progres
(UFC) candidate, Gilchrist Olympio, who had been in exile since 1992. The
presidential election was held June 1. President Eyadema was re-elected
with 57% of the votes, amid allegations of widespread vote rigging.