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Togo History

Pre-colonial

Various tribes moved into the country from all sides - the Ewe from Nigeria and Benin, and the Mina and the Guin from Ghana. These three groups settled along the coast. When the slave trade began in earnest in the 16th century, the Mina benefited the most. They became ruthless agents for the European slave-traders and would travel north to buy slaves from the Kabye and other northern tribes. Europeans built forts in neighboring Ghana (at Elmina) and Benin (at Ouidah), but not in Togo, which had no natural harbours. 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.

League of Nations mandates

On August 8, 1914, French and British forces invaded Togoland and the German forces there surrendered on August 26. In 1916, Togoland was divided into French and British administrative zones. Following the war, Togoland formally became a League of Nations mandate divided for administrative purposes between France and the United Kingdom. After World War I, newly founded Czechoslovakia was also interested in this colony but this idea did not succeed.

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 December 1956, the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana.

British Togoland shown in stripes, which joined with Ghana

By statute in 1955, French Togoland 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, Nicolas 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 as president.

Independence and turmoil

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 Démocratique des Populations Togolaises (IDPT); the Parti Togolais du Progrès (PTP), founded by Grunitzky but having limited support; and the Unité 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 because of alleged plots against the majority party government. The reign of Mr Olympio was marked by the terror of his militia, the Ablode Sodjas. Many opposition members, including Grunitzky and Meatchi, were jailed or 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, a coup led by Lt. Col. Étienne Eyadéma (later Gen. Gnassingbé Eyadéma) and Kléber Dadjo ousted President Grunitzky in a bloodless military coup. Political parties were banned, and all constitutional processes were suspended. Dadjo became the chairman of the "committee of national reconciliation", which ruled the country until April 14, when Eyadéma assumed the presidency. In late 1969, a single national political party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), was created, and President Eyadéma was elected party president on November 29, 1969. In 1972, a national referendum, in which Eyadéma ran unopposed, confirmed his role as the country's president. Eyadéma's ruleThe third republic

Gnassingbé Eyadéma

In late 1979, Eyadéma 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. Eyadéma 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 Lomé from Ghana in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Eyadéma government.

The Opposition

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 Lomé. 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 Eyadéma, 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 Eyadéma 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 Eyadéma 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.

Powerless legislature and political violence

The democratic process was set back in October 1991, 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 Eyadéma to agree to satisfactory conditions for elections. The general strike largely shut down Lomé for months and resulted in severe damage to the economy.

In January 1993, President Eyadéma declared the transition at an end and reappointed Koffigoh as prime minister under Eyadéma'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, 1993, elements of the military went on an 8-hour rampage throughout Lomé, firing indiscriminately and killing at least 12 people. This incident provoked more than 300,000 Togolese to flee Lomé 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 Lomé's main military camp and tried unsuccessfully to kill President Eyadéma. They inflicted significant casualties, however, which set off lethal reprisals by the military against soldiers thought to be associated with the attackers.

Negotiating with the Opposition

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 Eyadéma 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 Lomé in January 1994. President Eyadéma 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.

Edem Kodjo named as Prime Minister

On April 22, President Eyadéma 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 government.
Image:Edem Kodjo and Jacques Chirac.jpg
Togolese politician Edem Kodjo (left) and French President Jacques Chirac in 1995.

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 Eyadéma's RPT party, and he resigned in August 1996. Since then, Eyadéma 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 Eyadéma 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 Eyadéma'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.

National Assembly elections

The second multi-party legislative elections of Eyadéma'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.

Eyadema addresses the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York in 2000.

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 Lomé. In July 1999, the government and the opposition began discussions, and on July 29, 1999, all sides signed an accord called the "Lomé Framework Agreement," which included a pledge by President Eyadéma 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, Eyadéma's government used this rubber-stamp parliament to amend Togo’s constitution, allowing President Eyadéma 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 Progrès (UFC) candidate, Gilchrist Olympio, who had been in exile since 1992. The presidential election was held June 1. President Eyadéma was re-elected with 57% of the votes, amid allegations of widespread vote rigging.

Death of Eyadéma and Gnassingbé's rise

Faure Gnassingbé

President Eyadéma died on February 5, 2005 while onboard an airplane en route to France for treatment for a heart attack. His son Faure Gnassingbé, the country's former minister of public works, mines, and telecommunications, was named President by Togo's military following the announcement of his father's death. Under international pressure from the African Union and the United Nations however, who both denounced the transfer of power from father to son as a coup, Gnassingbé was forced to step down on February 25, 2005, shortly after accepting the nomination to run for elections in April. Deputy Speaker Bonfoh Abbass was appointed interim president until the inauguration of the April 24 election winner. As to official results, the winner of the election was Gnassingbé who garnered 60% of the vote. Opposition leader Emmanuel Bob-Akitani however disputed the election and declared himself to be the winner with 70% of the vote. After the announcement of the results, tensions flared up and to date, 100 people have been killed. On May 3, 2005, Gnassingbé was sworn in and vowed to concentrate on "the promotion of development, the common good, peace and national unity".

In August 2006 President Gnassingbe and members of the opposition signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA), bringing an end to the political crisis trigged by Gnassingbe Eyadema's death in February 2005 and the flawed and violent electoral process that followed. The GPA provided for a transitional unity government whose primary purpose would be to prepare for benchmark legislative elections, originally scheduled for June 24, 2007. CAR opposition party leader and human rights lawyer Yawovi Agboyibo was appointed Prime Minister of the transitional government in September 2006. Leopold Gnininvi, president of the CDPA party, was appointed minister of state for mines and energy. The third opposition party, UFC, headed by Gilchrist Olympio, declined to join the government, but agreed to participate in the national electoral commission and the National Dialogue follow-up committee, chaired by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.

Parliamentary elections are set to take place on October 14, 2007 and Mr Olympio, who has returned from exile to campaign, is taking part for the first time in 17 years. More than 3,000 national and international observers are monitoring the poll.

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