Togo is a small, narrow republic in western Africa. Slightly fewer than 22,000 square miles, with a north south distance of about 340 miles, Togo is situated between Ghana and Benin. The capital and largest city of Lomé is located on the western side of the 56 kilometer coastline on the Gulf of Guinea.

In spite o its small size, Togo’s population is diverse. There are 37 ethnic groups among its nearly 6 million people, who practice traditional religions, Christianity, and Islam. French is the official language although the African languages Ewe and Kabiyé are also taught.

Togo has one of Africa’s highest rates of population growth and highest rates of deforestation. Over two thirds of the population are engaged in agriculture and lives in areas with limited safe drinking water. In addition to other serious health problems, either HIV or AIDS results in about 10,000 deaths per year.

The slave trade was carried on in Togo during and after the 1600s. Germany made the territory the protectorate of Togoland in 1884 and during the next decade determined the permanent boundaries through agreements with France and Britain. The port city of Lomé was built by the Germans for shipment of goods from the interior.

In 1914 Germany surrendered Togoland to British and French troops. After World War I, France received Togoland in exchange for interior land granted to the British. After World War II, the United Nations gave Britain and France joint control of the territory.

In 1956 British Togo became part of the Gold Coast, which later became Ghana, while French Togo moved for independence. Under the leadership of Sylvanus Olympio, the National Union Party gained control of French Togo and refused an overture to unite with Ghana.

The United Nations granted membership to the new country in 1960. Three years later, Premier Olympio was assassinated in a military coup that installed Nicolas Grunitzky as president. A new constitution was drafted and approved by the nation.

When the army staged a second coup in 1967, the new government, headed by Étienne Eyadéma, dismissed the legislature and threw out the constitution. Eyadéma and his party, Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, or Togolese People’s Assembly), created a new constitution.

In the elections that followed, Eyadéma was almost unanimously reelected president. On the 13th anniversary of his takeover of the government, Eyadéma announced the Third Togolese Republic. Unrest continued to plague Togo, and in 1986 France sent troops to help quell another attempted coup. Eyadéma was reelected to another seven-year term the same year.

Map of Togo
Map of Togo

Eyadéma agreed in 1991 to work with a transitional government until general elections could be held. A national referendum in 1992 approved a new constitution. Among the provisions of the constitution were the establishment of multiparty elections and term limits for officials. In the 1993 election Eyadéma was still able to emerge as the victor for another term.

The elections resulted in a new legislature, which demanded concessions. In 1994 he appointed Edem Kodjo prime minister of a new coalition government. Nevertheless Eyadéma was reelected in 1998 and in 2003, after the legislature removed the term limits from the constitution.

When President Eyadéma died in February 2005, he was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbe. The succession, supported by the military but not by the constitution, was challenged by popular protest and a threat of sanctions from regional leaders. Gnassingbe easily won the elections he held in April 2005.