News24

Facts about Togo

2010-03-02 11:08

Lome - Factfile on Togo, a former German-French colony in west Africa, which holds presidential elections on Thursday.

GEOGRAPHY: Togo is a narrow strip of a country 56 785 square kilometres in size, with an Atlantic coast in the south and borders with Burkina Faso to the north, Ghana to the west and Benin to the east.

POPULATION: 6.5 million (2008, World Bank)

 CAPITAL: Lome

LANGUAGES: French (official), national languages

RELIGIONS: Animist (50%), Christian (35%), Muslim (15%)

HISTORY: A former German colony, Togo was conquered by Anglo-French forces at the start of World War I in 1914, then divided  into British Togoland in the west and French Togoland in the east. Both had UN mandates from 1946.

In 1956, British Togoland joined what the following year was to become the independent state of Ghana, the former Gold Coast. The remainder became independent Togo in 1960.

Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed in a coup in 1963 led by Colonel Etienne Eyadema, who later adopted the name Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Nicolas Grunitsky, who succeeded Olympio, was ousted in a bloodless coup in 1967 by Eyadema, who proclaimed himself head of state. His position was confirmed by a plebiscite in 1972, and he was elected in 1979 and 1986, as the only candidate.

Several hundred people lost their lives in political and social unrest in the early 1990s.

Pressure for democracy and donor threats to stop economic assistance led to a national conference in 1991 and a transitional administration with a lifting of restrictions on the political opposition. The general's foes denounced what they described as widespread torture, repression and political murders.

With military backing, Eyadema reclaimed his presidential authority. He was re-elected in 1993, in a poll boycotted by the opposition. Eyadema was returned to power in 1998 in an election whose results were contested by his opponents.

The day after Eyadema's death in February 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbe was named by the army to succeed him, before standing down under international pressure. He was elected in April 2005 during a vote disputed by the opposition and tainted by violence.

The ruling Rally for the Togolese People won an overall majority of seats in October 2007 parliamentary elections.

ECONOMY:
The European Union and other partners suspended co-operation with Togo in 1993. The EU resumed co-operation in late 2007 in return for efforts on human rights.

Sixty-two percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2006.

Togo is a large producer of phosphate, which brings in around 40% of export earnings. Production has collapsed over the past few years from 5.4 million tonnes in 1997 to 800 000 tonnes in 2007. Most people live on subsistence agriculture.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT: $400 per capita in 2008 (World Bank).

EXTERNAL DEBT:
$2.2bn at the end of 2007. In 2008 Togo joined the list of heavily indebted poor countries, established by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, allowing it to benefit from a provision allowing the cancellation of the debt of the most needy countries.

ARMED FORCES:
About 8 550 troops, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies 2009 report.