Western history does not record what happened in Togo before the Portuguese arrived in the late fifteenth century.
During the period from the eleventh century to the sixteenth century, various tribes entered the region from all directions: the Ewé from Nigeria and Benin; and the Mina and Guin from Ghana. Most of them settled in coastal areas. When the slave trade began in the sixteenth century, the Mina benefited the most. For the next two hundred years, the coastal region was a major raiding center for Europeans in search of slaves, giving 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 extending its control inland. This became known as the German colony Togoland in 1905. After World War I, the colony was split into two mandates, administered by the United Kingdom and France. 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, and French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union. Independence came in 1960 under Sylvanus Olympio. Sylvanus Olympio was murdered by Lieutenant Col Gnassingbe Eyadema and he overtook his position and claimed power on January 13, 1967.
Gnassingbe Eyadema died in early 2005, after thirty-eight years in power, as Africa's longest sitting dictator. The military immediately installed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, but this new president provoked widespread international condemnation. Gnassingbe stepped down and announced elections, which he won two months later. The opposition claimed that widespread fraud influenced the election. The developments of 2005 led to renewed questions about a commitment to democracy made by Togo in 2004 in a bid to normalize ties with the EU, which cut off aid in 1993 over the country's human rights record. Moreover, up to 400 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presidential poll, according to the UN. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighboring countries.
Togo is a small, thin sub-Saharan nation. It borders the Bight of Benin in the south; Ghana lies to the west; Benin to the east; and to the north Togo is bordering Burkina Faso. In the north, the country is characterized by a gently rolling savannah. The center of the country is hilly. The southern plateau reaches a coastal plain with extensive lagoons and marshes. The land area is 56,785 km² (21,925 square miles), with an average population density of 98 people per square kilometer (253 people per square mile). In 1914 it changed from Togoland to Togo Moubarikou.
Togo's small sub-Saharan economy is heavily dependent on both commercial and subsistence agriculture, which provides employment for 65% of the labor force. Cocoa, coffee, and cotton together generate about 30% of export earnings. The main export partners are Burkina Faso (17%), Ghana (15%), The Netherlands (13%), Benin (10%) and Mali (8%), whereas the main import partners include France (21%), the Netherlands (12%), and Ivory Coast (6%). Togo is self-sufficient in basic food goods when harvests are normal, with occasional regional supply difficulties. In the industrial sector, phosphate mining is by far the most important activity, although it has suffered from the collapse of world phosphate prices and increased foreign competition. Togo's GDP per capita US $636,44 in 2013 according to the World Bank, this number having doubled over the last decade.
Togo serves as a regional commercial and trade center. The government's decade-long effort, supported by the World Bank and the IMF, to implement economic reform measures, to encourage foreign investment, and bring revenues in line with expenditures, has stalled. Political unrest, including private and public sector strikes throughout 1992 and 1993, jeopardized the reform program, shrank the tax base, and disrupted vital economic activity. The January 1994 devaluation of the currency by 50% provided an important impetus to renewed structural adjustments; these efforts were facilitated by the end of strife in 1994 and a return to overt political calm. Progress depends on increased openness in government financial operations (to accommodate increased social service outlays) and possible downsizing of the military, on which the regime has depended to stay in place. Lack of aid, along with depressed cocoa prices, generated a 1% fall in GDP in 1998, with growth resuming in 1999 and amounting 3% in 2004. Assuming no deterioration of the political atmosphere, growth should remain stable.
Togo's transition to democracy is stalled. Its democratic institutions remain nascent and fragile. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo under a one-party system for nearly twenty-five of his thirty-seven years in power, died of a heart attack on February 5, 2005. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, should have become president, pending a new election. Natchaba was out of the country, returning on an Air France plane from Paris. The Togolese army closed the nation's borders, forcing the plane to land in nearby Benin. With an engineered power vacuum, the army announced that Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé, also known as Faure Eyadéma, who had been the Minister of Communications, would succeed him. The constitution of Togo declared that in the case of the president's death, the speaker of Parliament takes his place, and has sixty days to call new elections. However, on February 6th, Parliament retroactively changed the Constitution, declaring that Faure would hold office for the rest of his father's term, with elections deferred until 2008. The stated justification was that Natchaba was out of the country. The government also moved to remove Natchaba as speaker and replaced him with Faure Gnassingbé, who was sworn in on February 7, 2005, despite the international criticism of the succession.
The African Union described the takeover as a military coup d'état. International pressure came also from the United Nations. Within Togo, opposition to the takeover culminated in riots in which several hundred people died. In the village of Aného reports of a general civilian uprising followed by a large scale massacre by government troops went largely unreported. In response, Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections and on February 25, Gnassingbé resigned as president, but soon afterwards accepted the nomination to run for the office in April. On April 24, 2005, Gnassingbé was elected president of Togo, receiving over 60% of the vote according to official results. However fraud was suspected as cause of his election, due to a lack of presence of the European Union or other such oversight. Parliament designated Deputy Speaker Bonfoh Abbass as interim president until the inauguration of the election winner.
The European Union has suspended aid in support of the opposition claims, while the African Union (AU) and the United States have declared the vote "reasonably fair" and accepted the outcome. The Nigerian president and Chair of the AU, Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ, has sought to negotiate between the incumbent government and the opposition to establish a coalition government, but rejected an AU Commission appointment of former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, as special AU envoy to Togo. Later in June, President Gnassingbe named opposition leader Edem Kodjo as the prime Minister.
As of April 2006, reconciliation talks between the government and the opposition were in progress, as said talks were suspended after Eyadema's death in 2005. In August the government and the opposition signed an accord providing for the participation of opposition parties in a transitional government, bringing an end to the political crisis.
Faure Gnassingbé remained quite impopular during his term internationally, but the 2007 legislative elections turned out to be in his favor. In 2010, he was elected president again, garnering more than 60% of the vite, defeating his main opponent, Jean-Pierre Fabre, who only got 33.9%. Some people among the opposition stood up to dispute the validity of the results, evoking possible manipulations. But Gnassingbé still took an oath on May 3rd in Lomé. In 2015, he was elected with 58.75% of the vote, defeating Fabre again. Protests rose up again, but quickly ceased.
Togo's culture reflects the influences of its thirty-seven ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, and Kabyé. French is the official language of Togo, but it is almost always the second language next to local dialect. The many indigenous African languages spoken by Togolese include: Gbe languages such as Ewe, Mina, and Aja; Kabiyé; and others. Despite the influences of Christianity and Islam, over half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs. Ewe statuary is characterized by its famous statuettes which illustrate the worship of the twins, the ibéji. Sculptures and hunting trophies were used rather than the more ubiquitous African masks. The wood-carvers of Kloto are famous for their "chains of marriage": two characters are connected by rings drawn from only one piece of wood.
The dyed fabric batiks of the artisanal center of Kloto represent stylized and colored scenes of ancient everyday life. The loincloths used in the ceremonies of the tisserands of Assahoun are famous. Works of the painter Sokey Edorh are inspired by the immense arid extents, swept by the harmattan, and where the laterite keeps the prints of the men and the animals. The plastics technician Paul Ahyi is internationally recognized today. He practices the "zota", a kind of pyro engraving, and his monumental achievements decorate Lomé.
Togo is a rich country, but experienced political turmoil a few years ago. The good part about this was that many tourist skipped Togo. These days, tourists are slowly returning to the country, but still not in the large numbers experienced by Ghana and Benin. This makes traveling in Togo very authentic, since there are so many places to visit. Find some suggestions below:
Old Afro-Brazilian style village with a beautiful lagoon. Close to the beach.
Togoville and Lake Togo
Togoville is the historical centre of voodoo, located on the shores of Lake Togo. One can go there with a pirogue and visit the village where voodoo and fetish objects are all over.
Kpalimé and Klouto
Kpalimé lies about 120km from Lomé and feels like a totally different world, hidden among the forested hills of the cocoa and coffee region, which offer some of Togo’s best scenery and hiking. Close by lies Klouto, a place that is known for its butterflies and its old castle.
Badou and Akloa Falls
Badou, a city close to Ghana’s border, hosts some of the most spectacular water falls in the region. Together with a guide one can take a jungle hike tour to the almost deserted waterfalls.