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Togo History, Language and Culture

History of Togo

At the turn of the 15th century, Togo was populated by Kwa people and tribes from along the River Volta. Over the next 200 years, they were joined by Ewe people from Nigeria and Ane from Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.

During the 18th century the coast was occupied by Danish colonialists, but by the late 19th century Denmark had been replaced by Germany, which established the Togoland protectorate. The administration was overthrown by a joint Anglo-French force early in WWI. Then, in 1922, the country was divided into a French-controlled eastern region and a British-controlled western sector, both governed under a League of Nations mandate. After an UN-sponsored referendum in 1956, the British sector merged with the neighbouring colony of Gold Coast (Ghana), while the French sector became the Republic of Togo.

Civilian government lasted just a few years before a military coup brought Lieutenant-Colonel Etienne Eyadéma to power in 1967. Eyadéma's authoritarian style spawned several coup attempts, though he remained in office until his death in February 2005.

Earlier, in August 1991, Togo had been at the vanguard of a democratic revolution sweeping Africa, with a national conference convened to chart a path to democracy. The conference stripped Eyadéma of executive powers and installed a transitional administration. In November, the administration made a serious tactical error by banning Eyadéma's party, the RPT. The army mutinied, and only the arrival of French paratroopers brought the violence to a halt.

When elections were eventually held in 1993, after multiple postponements, opposition parties boycotted or were disqualified. Tension only eased when the RPT lost power in 1994, although Eyadéma was convincingly re-elected president in 1998, and then again in 2003.

On his death, the constitution was hastily changed and Eyadéma's son, Faure, assumed power. International condemnation forced him to resign just 20 days later until elections were held.

Against a backdrop of violence and accusations of vote rigging and intimidation, Faure won the election with 60% of the vote. As president he oversaw the formation of a transitional unity government to prepare the country for benchmark elections in 2007 that were considered largely free by international observers.

Did you know?
• At the time of his death Eyadéma was the longest-serving leader in modern African history, having held the presidency for 38 years.
• After WWI it was considered that the then German colony should instead be administered by Czechoslovakia.
• The name Togo means ‘water shore’ in Ewe.

Togo Culture

Religion in Togo

50% traditional or animist, 35% Christian and 15% Muslim.

Social Conventions in Togo

Music and dance are the most popular forms of culture. The Togolese have had a varied colonial heritage which has resulted in the variety of Christian denominations and European languages; the voodoo religion is a strong influence in the country and many young girls, after fulfilling an initiation period, will devote their lives to serving the religion and the voodoo village priest. Practical, casual clothes are suitable. Beachwear should not be worn away from the beach or poolside.

Language in Togo

French is the official language, while Ewe, Watchi and Kabiyé are the most widely spoken African languages. Very little English is spoken.