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.
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conference repealed the constitution, illegally declared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
Political 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.
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
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.
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
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
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).
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.