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Wed, 04.27.1960

Togo Gains Independence From France

Togo flag

*On this date in 1960, Togo gained independence from France.  In Togo’s first presidential elections in 1961, Sylvanus Olympio became the first president of the Togolese Republic.  The opposition boycotted the elections. On April 9, 1961, the Constitution of the Togolese Republic was adopted, according to which the supreme legislative body was the National Assembly of Togo.

Historically, the Berlin Conference resulted in Germany arriving in Togo in 1847, with missionaries and traders establishing a base in Anecho.  In 1885, Togoland is recognized by the European Powers as a German colony.  Its coastal border was agreed upon with the U.K. to the west and France’s Dahomey to the east, establishing inland frontiers by the end of the 19th century.  The arrival of WW I aligned France and Britain against Germany; this resulted in a colonial transfer to France.  

In the 20th century, in December 1961, leaders of opposition parties were arrested and accused of preparing for an anti-government conspiracy. A decree was issued on the dissolution of the opposition parties. Olympio tried to reduce dependence on France by establishing cooperation with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.  He also rejected the efforts of French soldiers who were demobilized after the Algerian War and tried to get a position in the Togolese army. This led to a military coup on January 13, 1963, he was assassinated, and a State of emergency was declared in Togo.  The military handed over power to an interim government led by Nicolas Grunitzky. In May 1963, Grunitzky was elected President of the Republic.  

Exactly four years later, on January 13, 1967, Eyadéma Gnassingbé overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency.  Gnassingbé suddenly died on February 5, 2005, after 38 years in power, the longest occupation of any dictator in Africa. As president, the military's immediate installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbé, provoked widespread international condemnation, except in France.  

In late 2017, anti-government protests erupted in Togo, the biggest since the 2005 election. They demand the resignation of Gnassingbé, who is part of a family they say has been in power too long. The UN has condemned the resulting crackdown by Togolese security forces, and Gambia's foreign minister, Ousainou Darboe, had to issue a correction after saying that Gnassingbé should resign.  

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