Very little is known about the region that is Togo before about 500 years ago. However, for much of its known history, the region around and including the country that is now Togo played a large role in early European colonization. When the first Europeans arrived, tribes including the Ewe, Mina and the Guin had already settled the region. Beginning in the 16th century and continuing for the next 200 years, slave traders, with the help of the Mina, raided the region, also known as "The Slave Coast," in search of slaves.
In 1847, German missionaries came to Togo to evangelize primarily to the Ewe, Togo's largest tribe. German traders later followed the missionaries, and in 1884, Togoland, as it was called, became a self-supporting colony of Germany. Although a model colony for Germany, this all changed upon the start of World War I when Germany quickly lost control of its colony to British and French forces in 1914. After the war, Togoland became a League of Nations mandate divided between the United Kingdom and France. Following World War II, Togoland once again experienced administrative changes as it became a trust territory of the United Nations, the world organization that had replaced the defunct League of Nations.
Still split administratively between the United Kingdom and France, residents of the British portion voted to join the British Gold Coast to form the new country of Ghana in December 1956. During that same year, French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French union under the leadership of Prime Minister Nicolas Grunitzky. He lost power in 1958 during an unsupervised general election to Sylvanus Olympio, and on April 27, 1960, Togo became an independent nation.
Following independence, a new constitution in 1961 gave far-reaching powers to the executive president who had little, if any, real checks and balances from the weak National Assembly. In the country's first elections since independence, Olympio's party won with 90 percent of the vote and all National Assembly seats.
The years that followed were marked by unrest as Olympio squelched opposition by jailing those who hadn't successfully fled the country to avoid arrest. Olympio was assassinated in January 1963, allowing Grunitzky to become president. Although Grunitzky tried to implement government reforms by allowing multiple parties to be represented, his power was weakened by an attempted overthrow in 1966. Although unsuccessful, a subsequent bloodless military coup led by Lt. Col. Étienne Eyadéma in 1967 removed Grunitzky from power, banned all political parties and suspended the constitution. Later in 1972 with just one national party, Eyadéma ran unopposed and became the country's president.
With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the desire for a more democratic form of government was felt in other countries such as Togo. Riots broke out in the capital city of Lomé after students handed out antigovernment tracts. The subsequent trial of these students on Oct. 5, 1990, sparked even more violence leading the government and the opposition to agree to hold a "national forum" on June 12, 1991. Following the forum, tension between the opposition and the government remained high with paralysis of the government and violent flare-ups continuing over a three-year period. In spite of the obstacles, members from both the opposition and Eyadéma's government drew up a new constitution on Sept. 27, 1992.
Tension erupting in waves of violence continued for many years during the 1990s. Numerous attempts were made on President Eyadéma's life, but all were unsuccessful. Then on July 29, 1999, the government and the opposition signed an accord called the Lomé Framework Agreement. Among other things, the agreement included a pledge by Eyadéma to not seek another term after 2003. This pledge was later broken when Eyadéma's government amended Togo's constitution to allow the president to run for an "unlimited" number of terms. The following year, President Eyadéma was re-elected with 57 percent of the vote, amid accusations of voter fraud.
President Eyadéma's 33-year rule came to a sudden end Feb. 5, 2005 when he died onboard an airplane en route to France for treatment of a heart attack. In a military coup-like fashion, the transfer of power went from father to son, making Faure Gnassingbé, the former minister of public works, mines and telecommunications, the new president. However, international pressure forced Gnassingbé to step down. On April 24, elections were held showing Gnassingbé to be the clear winner with 60 percent of the vote. Though the election was disputed, Gnassingbé was sworn in as president on May 3, 2005.
Democratic gains since then allowed Togo to hold its first relatively free and fair legislative elections in October 2007. At that time, parliamentary elections were held with the ruling party, Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), winning a majority of the seats by a narrow margin over the opposition party Union of Forces for Change (UFC). After years of political unrest and condemnation from international organizations for human rights abuses, Togo has finally been re-welcomed into the international community.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
Although the Togolese place a high value on education, the challenge in the past has been that neither the government nor many families could afford the costs associated with it. While there are a few private schools run by Christian or Islamic organizations, most of the schools have been built by the government. However, the classrooms haven't been as full as they could be because parents have had to pay a modest tuition.
In 2008, the Togolese government abolished all school fees. With better access to public education, primary education is compulsory and typically lasts at least five years. Though the government is now fronting the bill for education, the classrooms are still minimally equipped, most of them without electricity.
The secondary schools in Togo last seven years and use a curriculum that is similar to that used in France, and the language taught is French. Although the French language is a second or even third language for most children, the country's literacy rate is one of the highest in Africa.
In the capital city of Lomé, colleges of administration, architecture and urban planning are also available. In addition, the University of Benin is located there.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government does not tolerate its abuse either by public or private groups. The constitution further prohibits political parties to be established based on religion.
There are three main religious groups recognized by the government. They are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. Religious groups not associated with these three must register as associations to obtain the same rights and protections.
The government generally respects freedom of religion in practice. However, the HAAC, the commission that monitors the media, forbids religious radio and television stations to discuss politics on their shows. In addition, religion is not included in the curriculum in public schools.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Holidays and Festivals
Togolese art includes different kinds of textiles, handcrafted marble ashtrays, handcrafted gold and silver jewelry, traditional masks and wood carvings.
Drums dominate music in Togo with dozens of varieties to choose from. Some types of drums include blekete, grekon, ageche, akpesse, aziboloe, amedjeame, and adamdom. This music is often accompanied by dance, and most songs are sung in the Ewe language.
Sports and Games
New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Liberation Day, Jan. 13
Mouloud (Anniversary of the Prophet's birthday), March 9
Easter Monday, March 13
Independence Day, April 27
Labor Day, May 1
Ascension, May 21
Whit Monday (Pentecostal Monday), June 1
Day of the Martyrs, June 21
Assumption, Aug. 15
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), Sept. 21
Anniversary of the Failed Attack on Lomé, Sept. 24
All Saints' Day, Nov. 1
Tabaski (Feast of the Sacrifice), Nov. 28
Christmas Day, Dec. 25
As in much of Africa, football (soccer) is the most popular sport. However, Togo was a minor player on the world stage until 2006 when the national team, nicknamed Les Eperviers (The Sparrow Hawks), qualified for the World Cup.
During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Togo won its first Olympic medal when Benjamin Boukpeti (a Frenchman representing the nation) won the bronze in the Men's K1 Kayak Slalom.
The most popular food in Togo is maize, which is made into a porridge called pâtes (French) or akume (Ewé). This simple dish is always served with "sauces" or stews, such as vegetable stews made with okra, ademe and spinach or meat stews made with fish, cow skin or large bush rats.
Fufu is another popular dish made with yams. Once the yams are cut and peeled, they are boiled until they have the consistency of dough. Like the pâtes, fufu is served with "sauces," with groundnut, goat and palm nut being popular flavors. Other crops besides maize and yams are prepared similarly.
Chicken Groundnut Soup (served with fufu)
1 chicken, cut into serving pieces, browned by frying and seasoned
1 large onion, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small tin tomato paste
1 Maggi (bouillon) cube
1 cup peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 ½ cups water
Add the onion and water to a saucepan. Then add the peanut butter and tomato paste. Cook on gentle heat until the oil from the peanut butter starts to come to the surface of the sauce. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes and seasoning.
Stir over a gentle heat and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.
Compassion in Togo
French is the official language of Togo.
- Bonjour (Hello, good morning, good afternoon)
- Je m'appelle... (My name is …)
- Comment vous-appelez vous? (What is your name?)
- Quoi de neuf? (What's new?)
- Ça va? (How are you?)
- Adieu (Farewell)
- Salut (Bye)
Togo Facts & Figures
Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program began in Togo in 2008, followed by the Child Survival Program in January 2014. Currently, more than 22,400 children participate in nearly 100 child development centers.
Children meet at the child development center for 6 to 8 hours on Saturdays. While at the center, children receive a meal that typically consists of rice or pasta with fish or meat.
Extracurricular activities conducted at the centers include musical instrument playing, choreography, choir, artwork, soccer and puzzles.
At many of the child development centers, parents help with food preparation and participate in parenting classes.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Togo.
7,351,374 (2014 estimate)
Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS, which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and lower population growth rates than otherwise expected.
||French (official, the language of commerce), Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south), Kabye (sometimes spelled Kabiye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north)
||Christian 29%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs 51%
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
Female: 48% (2011 estimate)
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
Rural: 40.1% (2011 estimate)
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
Rural: 2.7% (2011 estimate)
||Tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north
|Percentage of population urbanized
||38% (2011 estimate)
Male: 61.49 years
Female: 66.71 years (2014 estimate)
|Under-5 mortality rate
||96/1,000 (2012 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$1,100 (2013 estimate)
||Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc (XOF)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||128,100 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
28% (2007-11 study)
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014