Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Togo

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Togo, 2007, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
Comments In October 2015, MRG revised its World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. For the most part, overview texts were not themselves updated, but the previous 'Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples' rubric was replaced throughout with links to the relevant minority-specific reports, and a 'Resources' section was added. Refworld entries have been updated accordingly.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Republic of Togo, located on the Gulf of Guinea, is one of Africa's smallest countries and lies between Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Tropical forest along the coast transitions to grasslands in the north. Togo has deposits of phosphates that are mined and arable land that supports most of its population of subsistence farmers.


Éwé moved into the area of today's Togo from the Niger River valley between the 12th and 14th centuries, and, as with the Gurma and Kabyé in the north, were organized into small chiefdoms in contrast to the centralised states to the east and west. Portuguese traders reached the coast in the 15th and 16th centuries, and by the 17th century the region had become a major source of slaves for Europeans engaged in the Atlantic slave trade, earning the area the moniker 'The Slave Coast'. The Danish dominated the slave trade throughout the 18th century until prohibiting it in 1802; Danish and German Protestant missionaries were also active in the area from the 18th century onwards. German merchants operated in the port of Aneho, and in order to counter the neighbouring French and English, appealed for protection from Germany in the 1880s. In a treaty signed in 1884 at Togoville, Germany declared a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast, called Togoland. Germany gradually gained control over the interior, and in 1897 made Lomé the capital. Palm oil produced through forced labour in the south proved lucrative for Germany.

In 1904, the Germans agreed on a boundary to the British Gold Coast to the west, which divided the tribal territories of several large ethnic groups, including the Éwé and the Konkomba. German administrators provided education to some southerners, but largely neglected the north. The British and French invaded Togoland in 1914, and after World War I, parts of northern Togoland were annexed to the Gold Coast. Under a mandate from the League of Nations, Britain administered one-third of the remainder, and France two-thirds. After a referendum British Togoland was incorporated into newly independent Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) in 1957, over the objections of a majority of Éwés. Under French colonial rule, Kabyé were dominant in the Togolese military. From 1955, Togo was an autonomous republic within the French Union. In 1960 French Togoland became the independent Republic of Togo.

Tension between the northern Kabyé and southern Éwé continued after independence, resulting in political violence. Many southerners were prejudiced against the north, regarding its inhabitants as savages. Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of independent Togo, and a Éwé, was assassinated in 1963 after he attempted to deny many Kabyé soldiers a place in the new army of Togo. Olympio had also been unpopular among his own people by closing the border to Ghana and spurning suggestions from the Ghanaian president to unify the two country's, and thus their two Éwé communities. By some accounts, Olympio's assassin was Lieutenant Colonel Etienne Eyadéma (later known as General Gnassingbé Eyadéma), one of the Kabyé officers who launched the coup. Nicolas Grunitzy became president until his ouster by Eyadéma in a bloodless coup in 1967. Eyadéma assumed the presidency and declared a one-party state in 1969. Through a mix of patronage, repression and sham elections to defuse pressure, he would cling to power for the next 38 years, until his death of natural causes in February 2005. He was Africa's longest-ruling dictator.


Main languages: French (official), Éwé, Kabyé.

Main religions: traditional religions (33%), Roman Catholic (28%), Sunni Islam (14%), Protestant (10%), other Christian denominations (10%).

Main minority groups: Éwé 1.3 million (21%), Ouatchi (Gbe) 366,000 (5.8%), Mina (Gen) 201,000 (3.2%), Fon 36,000 (0.6%), Adja 152,000 (2.4%), Moba 190,000 (3%), Konkomba 50,000 (0.8%), Tem (Kotokoli) 204,000 (3.2%), Ntcham (Bassari) 100,000 (1.6%), Hausa 9,600 (0.2%).

[Note: Percentages for religion come (via US CIRF 2007) from the Demographic Research Unit of the University of Lomé, 2004. Statistics for Ewe and Kabye come from the US State Department background note on Togo, 2008. Statistics on some ethnic groups come from Ethnologue, 1991: Ouatchi, Mina, Fon, Lama. Moba, Konkomba, Tem and Hausa. The figure for Ntcham comes from Ethnologue, 1993; for Adja, 2002. Total population est. of 6.3 million (from 2006) is taken from the 2008 U.S. State Department background note on Togo and is used to calculate percentages from numbers and vice-versa).]

There are between 20 and 40 different ethnic groups in Togo, depending on differing classifications. No group has a numerical majority. A northern group, the Kabyé, has dominated the country's politics, and is the second largest group in Togo (after the Éwé), with some 12 per cent of the population. Northern Togo, where Kabyé are concentrated, is more ethnically diverse that the south. Other northern groups include the Moba, Kotokoli, Bassari, Hausa and Konkomba. One of Togo's most homogeneous ethnic groups, Moba inhabit rich agricultural lands in north Dapaong area and speak a dialect influenced by the More language of the Mossi of Burkina Faso. Konkomba are related to Moba and live in northern Togo and Ghana in the Oti River basin, a tributary of the Volta, north of Basseri. They live in clans organized into patrilineages and age sets, with no central structure. Traditionally, they are herders, fishers and subsistence farmers. Bassari, who belong to the Kotokoli ethnic cluster, live north-west of Sokode in West central, Bassar, Kabou, Kalanga and adjacent areas, and in neighbouring Ghana. They call themselves Bi-Tchambe, which means metalworkers, their pre-colonial occupation. Not to be confused with the Bassari along the Guinea-Senegal border, Bassari of Togo live among large numbers of non-Bassari. There are only small numbers of Hausa in Togo, but they form an important mercantile and religious group. They have been the prime transmitters of Islam in Togo.

Éwé and related Ouatchi, Mina, Fon and Adja ethnic groups are concentrated in the south (see separate entry).


Gnassingbé Eyadéma ruled through an extensive patronage system, financed largely through phosphate mining, and relied on his Kabyé-dominated military to intimidate political opponents. His government relied on an alliance between the Kabyé and southern groups, excluding Éwé. This alliance also excluded such northern groups as the Muslim Kotokoli, the Bassari, and the Konkomba. Eyadéma's ethnic favouritism heightened ethnic tensions. He developed a road network into the country's north and pursued free trade policies that made him palatable to the international community. Ironically, his foreign backers justified Eyadéma's personal rule as a necessity for national unity.

Under the Togolese constitution, upon Eyadéma's death in February 2005, the president of the National Assembly, Natchaba Ouattara, should have become president. However, within days the military installed Faure Gnassingbé, Eyadéma's son, to take his father's place. Street demonstrations were brutally repressed and opposition political activity banned. The African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup and broke-off economic ties with Togo.

Under this pressure, Gnassingbé agreed to April elections, which he won with 60 per cent of the vote. While AU and ECOWAS observers accepted the results, American and European observers noted rampant fraud in the polling process, including intimidation tactics and the military's seizure of ballot boxes before the count. Protests erupted upon announcement of the results. According the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 400-500 Togolese died in the ensuing violence, and over the course of 2005, 40,000 fled to Benin and Ghana. In response to international pressure, Gnassingbé appointed a purported government of national unity in August 2005, but in reality kept power in the hands of the ruling party. With continued pressure, the government and opposition signed a Global Political Agreement in August 2006 that created a true government of national unity, established an independent election commission, paved the way for parliamentary elections in 2007 and the beginning of military reform, and called for an investigation into the violence of 2005. The ruling party won the October 2007 vote, which ECOWAS observers deemed free and fair, and EU observers judged 'transparent' and 'satisfactory', but which opposition parties claimed were flawed.



Minority based and advocacy organisations

National Commission of Human Rights
Tel: +228-221-1070, 221-7879

Togolese League for Human Rights
Tel: +228-210-606

Union nationale des femmes togolaises (UNFT)
Tel: +228-212-738, 211-908

Women in Law and Development - Togo
Tel: +228-222 69 86

Sources and further reading


Decalo, S., Togo, Santa Barbara, CA, Clio Press, 1995.

Ebeku, K., The Succession of Faure Gnassingbe to the Togolese Presidency: An International Law Perspective (Current African Issues), Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, January 2006.

Froelich, J.C., Alexandre, P. and Cornévin R., Les populations du nord Togo, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1963.

Gayibor, N., En savoir plus sur - les peuples et royaumes du golfe du Benin, Cotonou, University of Benin Press, 1986.

Les Bassari du Nord Togo by Robert Cornévin (Collection Mondes d'Outre-Mer. Serie Nations.) Paris: Editions Berger-Levrault, 1962

O'Malley, M., 'Togo'; 'Ewe'; 'Kabré', and 'Konkomba' in Appiah, K. A and H.L Gates (eds) Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience New York: Basic/Civitas Books, 1999

Toulabor, C.M., Le Togo sous Eyadéma, Paris, Karthala, 1986.

Welch, C., Dream of Unity: Pan Africanism and Political Unification in West Africa, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1966.


Lawrance, B., The Ewe of Togo and Benin, Woeli Publishing Services, Ghana, 2006.

Nugent, P., Smugglers, Secessionists and Loyal Citizens on the Ghana-Togo Frontier: The Lie of the Borderlands Since 1914 (Western African Studies), James Currey Ltd, 2002.

O'Malley, M., 'Ewe' in Appiah, K.A. and H.L. Gates (eds) Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience New York: Basic/Civitas Books, 1999.


Les Bassari du Nord Togo by Robert Cornévin (Collection Mondes d'Outre-Mer. Serie Nations.) Paris: Editions Berger-Levrault, 1962.

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