|Togo is bounded by Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, and the Gulf of Guinea.Togo stretches 579 kilometers (360 mi.) north from the gulf and is only 160 kilometers (100 mi.) wide at the broadest point. The country consists primarily of two savanna plains regions separated by a southwest-northwest range of hills (the Chaine du Togo).Togo's climate varies from tropical to savanna. The south is humid, with temperatures ranging from 23oC to 32oC (75oF to 90oF). In the north, temperature fluctuations are greater--from 18oC to more than 38oC (65oF to 100oF).Togo, officially Togolese Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 5,682,000), 21,622 sq mi (56,000 sq km), W Africa. It borders on the Gulf of Guinea in the south, on Ghana in the west, on Burkina Faso in the north, and on Benin in the east. Lomé is the country's capital and its largest city. Togo is divided into 5 administrative prefectures.
Togo became independent on Apr. 27, 1960, see Togoland. At the time of independence, Sylvanus Olympio was the country's prime minister, and when Togo adopted a presidential form of government in 1961, he became its first president. Until 1966 there were tense relations with neighboring Ghana, led by Kwame Nkrumah, who sought to merge Togo with Ghana—a plan that Togo strongly resisted. The government's inability to find employment for most of the 600 men who had served in the French army and then returned to Togo in the early 1960s led to a coup on Jan. 13, 1963, during which Olympio was assassinated.
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.
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 as president.
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.
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 Eyadema government.
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.
Civil wars in neighboring Ghana and Burkina Faso resulted in large refugee migration into Togo; in addition, the revolutionary governments in those nations isolated Togo by closing their borders. In 1986, Eyadèma survived a coup attempt and was elected to a third term as president. In 1991, a national conference was convened to force Eyadèma to resign, to set up a transitional government, and to schedule multiparty democratic elections. The Togolese army then began a violent campaign on Eyadèma's behalf to return him to power. In 1992, Eyadèma was given back much of his power and the transitional government was dissolved. Nonetheless, a new constitution approved that year succeeded in somewhat reducing presidential power.
In 1993, Eyadèma won reelection in a contest that was boycotted by the main opposition parties. Ghana-based armed dissidents launched a new commando attack on military sites in Lome in January 1994. 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. Eyadema reemerged with a sure grip on power, controlling most aspects of government.
As a result, economic sanctions were imposed by the European Union. He won again in 1998, and in 1999 his party swept parliamentary elections; once again, the elections were boycotted by the opposition. The 2002 parliamentary elections were also boycotted by the opposition, and were again swept by the government party. Also in 2002 the constitution was amended to permit the president to seek a third term, and in the presidential election in 2003 Eyadèma was returned to office. The opposition accused the government of electoral fraud; the most popular opposition leader was
living in exile and barred from running.
In Feb., 2005, Eyadèma died. The army engineered the appointment of Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, Eyadèma's son, to the presidency, contrary to the constitution, which called for the speaker of parliament to succeed to the office. Parliament subsequently approved the move and amended the constitution to avoid a new election. These moves were protested internationally and sparked confrontations between Togolese demonstrators and police; Togo also was threatened with the loss of foreign aid. Under pressure Gnassingbé agreed at the end of the month to step down.
The various ethnic groups are quite distinct on a number of issues. The Ewé consider the birth of twins a great blessing and offer kola nuts and water to figurines thought to embody the twin spirit - you may see these figurines for sale in marketplaces. The same reverence, however, is not universal; the Bassari consider the birth of twins to be a grave misfortune and used to kill one or both of them. The same contrast between groups is seen with eating habits: in the south the Ewé eat cat and consider anyone who eats dog a barbarian, while in the north the Kabyé eat dog but not cat.
Approximately 20% of Togolese are Christians, 10% are Muslims and the remainder are animists. Most of the Christians live in the south, and many of them are Ewé. An equal number of Ewé are animist, however, and put some faith in reincarnation, a hallmark of that religion.
With about 40 ethnic groups and around 4 million people, Togo has one of the more heterogeneous populations in Africa. The two largest groups are the Ewé, who are concentrated in the south and comprised of many smaller groups (Anlo, Adja, Peda, Plah, Guin, etc), and the Kabyé, who are concentrated in the north and central parts of Togo and are known as skillful terrace farmers. Though French is the country's official language, about half of its people speak or understand Ewé, and the second most widely spoken African language is Kabyé.
The food in Togo is among the best in West Africa, and there are lots of places to try it, especially in Lomé. Nearly everything is served in a sauce called, handily enough, sauce, and most dishes are accompanied by a starchy substance such as rice, pâte (made with millet, corn, plantains, manioc or yams), ablo (made with corn and sugar), monplé (made with fermented corn) or foufou (don't ask). One of the more common meals is rice with peanut sauce, known as riz sauce arachide. Each district also has its culinary specialities. Along the coast, lamounou déssi or sauce de poisson (fresh fish sauce) is most popular, but other sauces include aglan (crab), gboma (spinach), tomate (tomato), aubergine (eggplant) and épinard (spinach). Other Togolese dishes include abobo (snails cooked like a brochette), egbo pinon (smoked goat), koklo mémé (grilled chicken with chilli sauce) and koliko (fried yams), which you'll see everywhere on the streets. Palm wine and tchakpallo (fermented millet) are the brews of choice in the south and north, respectively.
Travellers to Togo will find accommodations among the least expensive in West Africa. From dollar-a-night campgrounds to first-class suites at around US$50, you certainly won't break the bank on your bedding options. Likewise, food is very affordable in all but the finest restaurants. A street vendor's meal might leave you stuffed to the gills for an outlay of only US$1.
With two rainy seasons, one peaking around May or June, one in October, Togos' tiny coastline sees not only less rain than regions further north but also provides shelter on most days during December to February from the harsh harmattan winds. Temperatures are generally hotter during the first six months of the year, reaching 27-33°C (80-91°F) during the day on the coast and climbing a bit higher inland.
Country name: Togolese Republic
Area: 56,600 sq km
birth rate: 33.5/1000
People: 37 ethnic groups (the largest are Ewé, Mina and Kabyè); less than 1% European and Syrian-Lebanese
Language: French (official), Ewé and Mina in south, Dagomba and Kabyè in north
Religion: indigenous beliefs (70%), Christian (20%), Muslim (10%)
Currency: Communaute Financière Africaine franc (CFAF)