For the history of Togo before it 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.
Nicolas Grunitzky, Olympio's brother-in-law and an important political figure in the 1950s who had gone into exile (1958) in Dahomey (now Benin), returned to Togo and became president. Grunitzky unsuccessfully attempted to unify the country by including several political parties in his government. On Jan. 13, 1967, he was toppled in a bloodless army coup led by Lt. Col. Gnanssingbé Eyadèma, who became president in Apr., 1967, after an interlude of conciliar government. Eyadèma was confirmed overwhelmingly as president in elections in 1972. He proved to be intolerant of growing opposition, repressing dissent in trade unions and other areas of public life. Government efforts to exert increased control over the economy in the late 1970s included land-reform projects and state supervision of the textile trade. A new constitution that was approved in 1979 ended emergency military rule, proclaimed the Third Togolese Republic, and renewed Togo's status as a single-party state. Eyadèma was also elected to another term as president.
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. 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.
Abass Bonfoh was appointed interim president until the April presidential election, in which Gnassingbé was declared the winner. The election was denounced by the opposition as rigged, but other West African nations called on the two sides to compromise and form a national unity government. The electoral result sparked violence, in which several hundred died, between the opposition and the government's supporters and forces, and some 38,000 fled to neighboring Benin and Ghana, but Gnassingbé, strongly supported by the military, took office. The new government that was formed in June included some moderate opposition members but failed to be the broader unity government West African nations had encouraged, and the most powerful posts went to Gnassingbé's allies.
Negotiations in 2006 led to an agreement (August) that called for a government of national unity that included the opposition; in September, Yawovi Agboyibo, a human-rights activist, was named prime minister. In Oct., 2007, all political parties took part in the legislative elections, making them the first truly contested such elections in two decades. Observers said the elections were generally free and fair, but the constituencies were gerrymandered and unequal and the governing party won nearly two thirds of the seats with not quite a third of the vote, leading to opposition charges of vote-counting irregularities.
Ruling-party loyalist Komlan Mally became prime minister in Dec., 2007, but he was seen as ineffective and resigned in Sept., 2008. Gilbert Houngbo, a career diplomat, replaced Mally. In the Mar., 2010, presidential election, Gnassingbé was declared the winner with more than 60% of the vote, but the opposition denounced the results, saying that there were voting irregularities, including ballot stuffing. Houngbo resigned as prime minister in July, 2012, after several weeks of antigovernment demonstrations; Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu, the trade minister, succeeded him. Parliamentary elections in July, 2013, again resulted in a lopsided majority for the ruling party.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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