Independence Day Of The Republic Of Togo

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Independence Day Of The Republic Of Togo

WAELE AFRICA Foundation Wishes to congratulate the government and people of Togo on the occasion of her 59th independence. We wish your country and all its people happiness, continued success and prosperity.

History of Togo

Togo can be traced to archaeological finds which indicate that ancient local tribes were able to produce pottery and process iron. During the period from the 11th century to the 16th century, the Ewé, the Mina, the Gun, and various other tribes entered the region. Most of them settled in coastal areas. The Portuguese arrived in the late 15th century, followed by other European powers. Until the 19th century, the coastal region was a major slave trade centre, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”.

In 1884, Germany claimed a coastal protectorate, which grew inland until it became the German colony of Togoland in 1905. A railway, the port of Lomé, and other infrastructure were developed. During the First World War, Togoland was invaded by Britain and France. In 1922, Great Britain received the League of Nations mandate to govern the western part of Togo and France to govern the eastern part. 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 the Togolese Republic in 1960. Its Constitution, adopted in 1961, instituted the National Assembly of Togo as the supreme legislative body. In the same year, the first president, Sylvanus Olympio, dissolved the opposition parties and arrested their leaders. When he was assassinated in a coup in 1963, the military handed over power to an interim government led by Nicolas Grunitzky.

The military leader Gnassingbé Eyadéma overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup in 1967. He assumed the presidency and introduced a one-party system in 1969. Eyadéma remained in power for the next 38 years. When he died in 2005, the military installed his son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president. Gnassingbe held elections and won, but the opposition claimed fraud. Because of political violence, around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighboring countries. Gnassingbé was reelected two more times. In late 2017, anti-government protests were suppressed by security forces.

Little is known about the history of Togo before the late fifteenth century, when Portuguese explorers arrived, although there are signs of Ewe settlement for several centuries before their arrival. Various tribes moved into the country from all sides – the Ewe from Benin, and the Mina and the Guin from Ghana. These three groups settled along the coast.

Before the colonial period, the various ethnic groups in Togo had little contact with each other. Except for two small kingdoms in the north, the territory consisted of groups of villages which were under military pressure from the two neighbouring West African powers – the Ashanti and the Dahomey.

The first Europeans to see Togo were João de Santarém and Pêro Escobar, the Portuguese explorers who sailed along its coast between 1471 and 1473. The Portuguese built forts in neighboring Ghana (at Elmina) and Benin (at Ouidah). Although the coast of Togo had no natural harbors, the Portuguese did trade at a small fort at Porto Seguro. For the next 200 years, the coastal region was a major trading center for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”.

Independence and turmoil
A new constitution adopted by referendum 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 100% 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, the Democratic Union of the Togolese People (UDPT), the PTP, founded by Grunitzky but having limited support, and the Party of Togolese Unity, 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 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 13 January 1963 Olympio was overthrown and killed in a coup d’état led by 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 5 May 1963, the Togolese adopted a new constitution by referendum, which reinstated a multi-party system. They also voted in a general election to choose 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 21 November 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 13 January 1967, a coup led by Lt. Col. Étienne Eyadéma (later Gen. Gnassingbé Eyadéma) and Kléber Dadjo ousted President Grunitzky without bloodshed. Following the 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 14 April, 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 29 November 1969. In 1972, a referendum, in which Eyadéma ran unopposed, confirmed his role as the country’s president.

With Agency Report 

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