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The Togolese Republic, known more simply as Togo, is a narrow country in West Africa, ninety miles wide at its widest point, between Ghana to the west, and Benin to the east. To the north is Niger, while Burkina Faso is to the northwest. To the south, Togo has a narrow coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.

Togo was named for the town of Togoville, where a treaty was signed in 1884, establishing a German Protectorate. Under colonial control, Togoland, as it was first known, became synonymous with the entire region. The term, Togolese, appeared sometime after World War I, and the people identified with this term.

Compared to most African countries, the history of Togo is short. No evidence of an ancient civilization has been found in Togo, and the earliest record of its inhabitation goes back only ten or fifteen centuries. It is known that several tribes entered the region from all directions between 1000 AD and 1500 AD, settling mostly in the coastal regions.

Togo also has a fairly brief modern history, as it avoided early colonization by European powers, and had limited European cultural interference.

The Portuguese came to Togo in 1490, and the slave trade began soon afterward. For the next couple of centuries, its coastal areas became a center for the slave trade. The coast of Togo and its neighboring countries were known as the Slave Coast until the slave trade was eliminated in the 19th century.

As indicated, Togo became a protectorate of Germany in 1884, at which time its borders were defined through negotiations between Germany, France, and Britain. In 1905, it became a German colony, known as German Togoland, after which its indigenous population were conscripted to work cultivating cotton, coffee, and cocoa, as laborers building a railway and port, and to pay a tax to the German government.

Its time under German rule was brief, as Togoland was invaded by Britain and France during World War I. In 1916, Togo was divided, with Britain governing the western part as British Togoland, while France was given the eastern part, as French Togoland. After World War II, these mandates became United Nations Trust Territories in preparation for autonomy.

The people of British Togoland opted to combine with the Gold Coast to form Ghana in 1957, while French Togoland was granted autonomy as a French republic in 1959, one in which France remained responsible for the country's foreign relations, finances, and defense.

The Togolese Republic became a fully independent nation in 1960. Its first president was elected with 100% of the vote in an election boycotted by the opposition. In 1961, opposition party leaders were arrested on charges of plotting an anti-government conspiracy, and opposition parties were abolished. President Sylvanus Olympio attempted to form relationships with Britain, Germany, and the United States, and to distance his government from the French. He also refused to permit French soldiers who had been demobilized after the Algerian War to enlist in the Togolese military. In 1963, he was assassinated in a military coup.

The military yielded power to an interim government led by Nicolas Grunitzky, who was elected president in 1963. President Grunitzky worked to strengthen his government's relationship with France and introduced a multi-party system. Four years later, he was overthrown in a coup.

The new president, Eyadéma Gnassingbé, banished opposition parties, and was elected in 1979, 1986, 1993, 1998, and 2003. In 2004, the European Union interfered, declaring the last three elections to have been a seizure of power, scheduling talks between the EU and Togo on a resumption of cooperation between Togo and the EU. Eyadéma Gnassingbé died in 2005, having been in office for thirty-eight year, the longest of any dictator in Africa.

The military's installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbé, brought international condemnation on Togo, with the exception of France. Nevertheless, when an election was held two months later, he won, sparking accusations of a fraudulent election, and political violence that led to the death of about four hundred people. Still, Faure Gnassingbé was reelected in 2010 and 2015, and remains in office as of this writing, in January of 2018.

There are about forty ethnic groups in Togo, the Ewe being the largest. Approximately 50% of the population practices traditional African religions, including animalism, fetishism, ancestor worship, and nature worship. Around 30% of the Togolese are Christians, and 20% Muslim. About forty languages are spoken, but French is the official language, and the language of administration and commerce.

More than 60% of Togolese are engaged in agriculture, the leading crops being cotton, coffee, and cocoa. Subsistence farming is also important. Mining of phosphates began in 1963 and is an important industry.

 

 

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