Togo Independence Monument

By Bartholomew Madukwe

Appreciating a country like Togo, even as its 58th independence anniversary draws near, would be deficient without an insight to how the journey began.

Togo was once a protectorate of Germany until the fall of the Germans against the invading French and British military forces.

The United Nations placed Togo under the care of France and Britain at the end of First World War in 1914.

The name Togo was translated from the Ewe language as “land where lagoons lie”. During the period from the 11th century to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions: the Ewé from the east, and the Mina and Gun from the west. Most of them settled in coastal areas.


In 1884, a paper was signed at Togoville with the King Mlapa III, whereby Germany claimed a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its control inland. Its borders were defined after the capture of hinterland by German forces and signing agreements with France and Britain.

Togo Police Officers with German Sailors during the German Colony

In 1905, this became the German colony of Togoland. The local population was forced to work, cultivate cotton, coffee and cocoa and pay high taxes. A railway and the port of Loméwere built for export of agricultural products. The Germans introduced modern techniques of cultivation of cocoa, coffee and cotton and developed the infrastructure.


During the First World War, Togo was invaded by Britain and France, proclaiming the Anglo-French condominium. On 7 December 1916 the condominium collapsed and Togo was divided into British and French zones. 20 July 1922 Great Britain received the League of Nations mandate to govern the western part of Togo and France to govern the eastern part. In 1945, the country received the right to send three representatives to the French parliament.

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 in 1957. French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959, while France retained the right to control the defense, foreign relations and finances.


From the 11th to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a major trading center for Europeans to search for slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”. In 1884, Germany declared a region including present-day Togo as a protectorate called Togoland. After World War I, Togo was transferred to France. Togo gained its independence from France in 1960.


Togo, was once a protectorate of Germany until the fall of the Germans against the invading French and British military forces. The country came under UN Trusteeship Territories under the mandate of France until its full independence on April 27, 1960.

Though it is among the smallest countries in Africa, Togo enjoys one of the highest standards of living on the continent owing to its valuable export sector based on agricultural products such as coffee, cocoa bean, peanuts (groundnuts), cassava, rice, corn and millet, which together generate roughly 30% of export earnings. Togo’s major export partners are Burkina Faso(16.6%), China (15.4%), the Netherlands(13%), Benin (9.6%) and Mali (7.4%). Its major main import partners are France (21.1%), the Netherlands (12.1%), Côte d’Ivoire(5.9%), Germany (4.6%), Italy (4.4%), South Africa (4.3%) and China (4.In terms of structural reforms, Togo has made progress in the liberalization of the economy, namely in the fields of trade and port activities.

Nigeria’s export to Togo in 2012, was in the region of $40,579 million making the Franco-phone country the third largest importer of Nigerian non-oil export within the region.

According to USAID, Togo’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, which employs a large share of the labor force. Closely integrated into the regional economy, Togo is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and trades extensively with its neighbors, especially Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria.

Togo has the fourth largest phosphate deposits in the world. Their production is 2.1 million tons per year. Its mining industry is facing difficulties due to falling phosphate prices on world markets and increasing foreign competition.


The Togolese Republic was proclaimed on 27 April 1960. In the first presidential elections in 1961, Sylvanus Olympio, became the first president, gaining 100% of the vote in elections boycotted by the opposition. On 9 April 1961 the Constitution of the Togolese Republic was adopted, according to which the supreme legislative body was the National Assembly of Togo.

Togolese National Flag

In December 1961, leaders of opposition parties were arrested because they were accused of the preparation of an anti-government conspiracy. A decree was issued on the dissolution of the opposition parties. Olympio tried to reduce dependence on France by establishing cooperation with the United States, Great Britain and Germany. He also rejected efforts of French soldiers who were demobilized after the Algerian War and tried to get a position in the Togolese army. These factors eventually led to a military coup on 13 January 1963, during which he was assassinated by a group of soldiers under the direction of Sergeant Gnassingbé Eyadéma. A State of emergency was declared in Togo.

The military handed over power to an interim government led by Nicolas Grunitzky. In May 1963, Grunitzky was elected President of the Republic. The new leadership pursued a policy of developing relations with France. His main aim was to dampen the divisions between north and south, promulgate a new constitution, and introduce a multiparty system.

Exactly four years later, on 13 January 1967, Eyadéma Gnassingbé overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency. He created the Rally of the Togolese People Party, banned activities of other political parties and introduced a one-party system in November 1969. He was reelected in 1979 and 1986.

In1983, the privatization program was launched and in 1991 other political parties were allowed. In 1993, the EU froze the partnership, describing Eyadema’s re-election in 1993, 1998 and 2003, as a seizure of power. In April 2004, in Brussels, talks were held between the European Union and Togo on the resumption of cooperation. He suddenly died on 5 February 2005 after 38 years in power, the longest occupation of any dictator in Africa.

The military’s immediate installation of Eyadema’s son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president provoked widespread international condemnation, except from France. Some democratically elected African leaders such as Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria supported the move, thereby creating a rift within the African Union.

Gnassingbe left the power and held elections, which he won two months later. The opposition declared that the election results were fraudulent. The events in 2005 led to re-question the commitment to democracy that Togo had contracted in an attempt to normalize relations with the EU, which cut off aid in 1993 to the uncertainty of the human rights situation. In addition, up to 400 people were killed for political violence surrounding the presidential elections, according to the UN. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighboring countries. Faure Gnassingbé was reelected in 2010 and 2015.

In late 2017, anti-government protests erupted in Togo, the biggest since ones after the 2005 election. They demand the resignation of Gnassingbé, who is part of a family they say has been in power too long. The UN condemned the resulting crackdown by Togolese security forces, and Gambia’s foreign minister, Ousainou Darboe, issued a correction after saying that Gnassingbé should resign.