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Togo Modern History

Togo's modern history has been characterized by Etienne (Gnassingbé) Eyadéma. With the support of the military, he ruled the country dictatorially from 1967 (in practice 1963) until his death in 2005. In contravention of the constitution, power then passed to his son Faure Gnassingbé.

In 1963, three years after the independence of colonial power France, Togo's first leader, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed in a military coup led by Etienne (later Gnassingbé) Eyadéma. Olympio's brother-in-law and political rival Nicolas Grunitzky was made president, but after four years, Eyadéma himself took power in a bloody coup. He dissolved all political parties but two years later formed the Togolese People's Assembly (RPT) which became the only allowed party.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Togo. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

With authoritarian methods, Eyadéma managed to retain presidential power, despite concerns and coup attempts during the 1970s. Towards the end of the 1980s, the demands for political change increased. A reported coup attempt resulted in about 10 people being executed.

The regime then opened up for some democratization, but demonstrations and student strikes continued and many were killed in clashes with security forces. Political parties were again allowed in 1991, political prisoners were released and a national conference, with representatives from the regime, parties and civil organizations, was convened for the purpose of reforming the political system. The conference barely started before Eyadéma lost control of the events. The conference repealed the constitution, illegally declared Eyadéma's party RPT and formed a provisional legislative body.

Contemporary History of TogoPolitical and economic crisis

Eyadéma responded by dissolving the conference, after which the opposition appointed its own government led by lawyer Joseph Kokou Koffigoh. The president felt compelled to reluctantly accept Koffigoh's government. But the army intervened a few months later in support of Eyadéma and Koffigoh was arrested. He then decided to work with Eyadéma to save democratization. A unifying government was formed under Koffigoh's leadership, and RPT was again allowed. A new constitution was adopted in 1992 in a referendum (see Political system).

The political crisis hit the country. Thousands of Togolese flew abroad. The economy was in crisis since aid donors suspended their support for pushing the regime to democratic reforms. In 1993, the regime and the opposition finally agreed on a timetable for the delayed presidential and parliamentary and presidential elections held the same year. But Gilchrist Olympio, son of the murdered Sylvanus Olympio, was not allowed to stand for "technical formalities". The opposition candidates then decided not to stand. Eyadéma thus got almost all the votes.

The 1994 parliamentary elections first showed victory for the opposition and Edem Kodjo of the Togolese Union for Democracy (UTD) became prime minister. But the Supreme Court annulled the election results in some constituencies where the opposition won. In the 1996 re-election, RPT won.

Before the 1998 presidential election, Gilchrist returned Olympio from his exile and became Eyadéma's main opponent. When the vote counted for victory for Olympio, it was canceled by the government. It was later announced that Eyadéma had won. International observers and the opposition condemned the government's actions and unrest erupted.

election boycott

The opposition boycotted the 1999 parliamentary elections. After mediating the EU, the regime and the opposition signed a reconciliation agreement. According to this, a new election to Parliament would be held in 2000. However, the new election was postponed and in the spring of 2002 the cooperation collapsed when Parliament decided that presidential candidates must have lived in Togo for at least one year before the election. The change in the law was obviously directed at Olympio, who lived in exile. Several opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary elections, won by the RPT.

In the same year, Parliament approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the president to stand for re-election an unlimited number of times. Eyadéma was thus able to take part in the 2003 election, while Olympio was rejected because he lived abroad. His party The Union of Change (UFC) was represented by Bob Akitani but lost to Eyadéma.

In the spring of 2004, the EU promised to resume aid that has been withheld since 1993 against the regime's implementation of political reforms. A few months later, the section on imprisonment for slander in the Press Act was deleted, and 500 prisoners were pardoned while the regime began a dialogue with the opposition. In return, the EU launched new cooperation projects with Togo in the autumn.

In February 2005, Eyadéma died, after sitting longer in power than any other African leader. Political chaos followed. According to the constitution, the President of Parliament would now take over as president until elections could be held. But the President, who was abroad and could not return after the military closed airports, ports and borders, was dismissed.

Violent change of power

With the support of the military leadership, Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé was appointed new President (and thus President). Despite condemnations from the outside world, Parliament approved Gnassingbé's takeover of power two days after his father's death. In Lomé, thousands of Togolese demonstrated, but the protests were brutally knocked down by police and security services. But when Ecowas, the US and the AU imposed sanctions on Togo, Gnassingbé resigned. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament temporarily took over.

Presidential elections were held in April 2005, following a violent election movement with bloody clashes between security forces and opposition. Gnassingbé had been named RPT's presidential candidate, while several opposition parties joined Bob Akitani who was running for the Union of Change (UFC) instead of Olympio party leader who could not run. When preliminary data showed victory for Gnassingbé, new unrest broke out on Lomé's streets. Miles groups from both sides attacked violence and many were killed. Thousands of Togolese fled to neighboring Benin and Ghana.

Bob Akitani refused to accept the election and called himself president. In May, the Constitutional Court ruled that Gnassingbé had won with 60 percent of the vote against 38 percent for Akitani.

President Gnassingbé appointed the opposition's Edem Kodjo as prime minister, but as before, the government was dominated by RPT. Negotiations were held between Gnassingbé and the opposition. In August 2006, after Burkina Faso acted as mediator, an agreement was reached that an independent commission should organize a fair election to Parliament.

Cooperation

The elections were held in October 2007. For the first time in two decades, all the leading opposition parties participated. The election was approved by international observers. The UFC appealed the result, but the Constitutional Court ruled that the RPT received 50 seats against the 27 seats for the UFC. Shortly thereafter, the EU resumed aid and other support for Togo. President Gnassingbé had promised to form a unifying government, but neither the UFC nor the CAR wanted to participate.

In 2009, the president's half-brother, Kpatcha Gnassingbé, was accused of preparing a coup. The half-brother represented the part of the RPT that did not want to see any reforms, while the president was, after all, more liberal. Kpatcha Gnassingbé and two senior soldiers were sentenced in 2011 to 20 years in prison.

Ahead of the spring 2010 presidential election, the UFC's vice-party leader, Jean-Pierre Fabré, became the party's presidential candidate because the party leader Olympio had health problems. Fabré was one of six counter-candidates to President Gnassingbé who was running for a second term. On the whole, the election campaign ran smoothly, as did the election itself in March.

Gnassingbé was declared the winner with 61 percent of the vote against 34 percent for Fabré, who announced that the UFC would appeal the election result. Within the UFC, there was a growing gap between Fabré's supporters and more conciliatory forces with party leader Olympio at the forefront. After the election victory, Gnassingbé hoped to implement a series of reforms and concluded an agreement with Olympio that gave the UFC seven seats in the government. The UFC thus took place for the first time in a unifying government.

The cooperation agreement included economic and political reforms, including establishing new electoral lengths, making a new constituency and holding the long-delayed local elections. Many in the UFC, including Fabré, considered Olympio a traitor. In the fall, Fabré officially left the UFC and formed a new party, the National Alliance for Change (ANC).

Political concerns

In 2012 and early 2013, domestic political unrest again increased. Demonstrations were held in protest against the government, some degenerate in violence between protesters and police. Protests were also organized by the opposition to a new constituency, which also meant that Parliament was expanded by ten seats.

Particularly active was a new opposition movement called the Collective Rescue Togo (CST), which included, among others, Fabré's party ANC. The CST considered that the new constituency still favored the presidential party, now called the Union of the Republic (Unir) after Gnassingbé dissolved the RPT in early 2012.

In early 2013, Fabré and several other opposition leaders were charged with destroying public property in connection with two fires, one in Kara and one in Lomé. Fabré denied that he was involved and CST later claimed in a report that there were in fact several high ranking government officials behind the fires.

In July 2013, the parliamentary elections were held, which should have been held in 2012. However, the local elections were postponed again. Several opposition parties had planned to boycott the parliamentary elections, but still participated since the authorities released the opposition leaders detained after the fires. Unir received 62 seats and thus had a two-thirds majority in parliament.

In 2014, the opposition continued its efforts to bring about constitutional changes. It wanted, among other things, that a person should not be allowed to hold the presidential office for more than two consecutive terms and that presidential elections should be held for two rounds. The proposals were met by compact opposition in the Unir Parliament. Gnassingbé tried to appease the opposition by appointing a commission to carry on the reform work.

 
 

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