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The West- African country of Togo borders Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso, opening out onto the Gulf of Guinea in the south. After independence from France a short period of democracy was followed by the long dictatorship of Eyadéma Gnassingbé, who was in turn replaced by his son in 2005 - the latter, initially installed by the military then supposedly legitimated by successive questionable elections. The human rights situation under the Eyadéma regime was appalling, though this has improved somewhat in recent years, through greater engagement with international human rights standards.


Togo is located on the Gulf of Guinea, and shares borders with Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. The terrain is characterised by savannah in the north, hills in the centre, and extensive lagoons and marshes to the south. The capital city is Lomé.

Population and language

The country is home to more than 6 million people, a figure that has more than doubled since 1980. The population expanded most dramatically between 1990 and 2000 but is still increasing at a rate of more than 2 per cent annually[1]. Demographic indicators are difficult to comment upon, as Togo did not carry out a census for 29 years prior to 2011 and complete data for the 2011 census has not yet been published.

The official language is French[2], but a number of indigenous African languages are spoken, among which Kaby, Ewe and Dagomba are the most common.

Politics and history

Togo gained its independence from France in 1960 and established a multi-party democracy. This political arrangement lasted only three years, however, before Etienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma overthrew the government in a military coup. Initially Eyadéma 's brother-in-law took power, but between 1967 and 1991 Eyadéma ruled as a dictator. In 1991, the National Forum forced Eyadéma to accept political reforms, including an elected parliament, but in 1993 he won the Presidential elections amid an opposition boycott, and continued to rule until his death in 2005[3].

Eyadéma's son, Faure Gnassingbé, initially assumed power following his father's death, but international political pressure forced him to hold elections later that year. Faure Gnassingbé won the elections amid widespread violence, but his presidency has so far been characterised by a relaxation of the political repression and a move away from human rights violations of his father's rule. In 2006 an opposition party member, Yawovi Agboyibo, became Prime Minister for the first time. Elections were held again in 2008, in which Fuare Gnassingbé's Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT) won a majority of parliamentary seats in an election with which international observers pronounced themselves satisfied[4].

President Gnassingbé was re-elected in 2010, though there was some controversy when the opposition, Jean-Pierre Fabre[5], challenged the validity of the election. A degree of political instability was demonstrated in 2011, when the President's half brother, Kpatcha Gnassingbé, was convicted of plotting a coup and sentenced to 20 years in Prison[6].


Togo is among the world's poorest countries, and is ranked 162 out of 187 countries in the human development index (HDI). The economy is dominated by agriculture, in which two-thirds of the population are employed and 45 per cent of GDP is produced. The mining of phosphates and the production of cement also account for a substantial proportion of the State's economic activity. The economy has suffered a series of setbacks over the past five years, including rising fuel and food prices as well as the 2009 global recession. Per capita income has also been falling at a rate of one per cent annually since the 1980s. In December 2010, however, Togo benefited from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, in which $1.8 billion was written off the national debt (82 per cent of the total national debt)[7].

Togo is a member of the Union Economique et Monetaire Oeust Africaine and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.

Media and civil society

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) rated Togo 60th out of 178 countries in its 2010 Press Freedom Index and classified the state of press freedom “satisfactory”, a dramatic improvement since 2005. Eyadéma suppressed all criticism during his rule, treating it as a crime of state, and during the elections that saw his son assume the presidency the government operated a policy of police oppression. Demonstrators hostile to France also attacked representatives of the foreign press. The new government has developed a new relationship with the media, however, and violations of press freedom are now much less common and less severe.

Human rights and children's rights

Under the Eyadéma regime Togo had an appalling human rights record, including widespread political oppression and violence that has left a legacy of victims. There was considerable violence during the 2005 elections, but since then Togo has signed and ratified a number of human rights treaties, and begun to take steps towards establishing human rights in national law. Successful reforms have included the abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to address the abuses of the past.

  1. UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
  2. Constitution of Togo, Article 3
  3. BBC, "Obituary: Gnassingbe Eyadema" 5 February 2005
  4. BBC, "Togo ruling party wins election" 18 October 2007
  5. BBC, "Togo President Faure Gnassingbe wins re-election" 6 March 2010
  6. BBC, "Togo Leader Gnassingbe's brother jailed for coup plot" 15 September 2011
  7. World Bank, Togo Country Brief


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