Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Togo : Éwé

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Togo : Éwé, 2008, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
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 Éwé are the largest ethnic group in Togo, making up approximately 21 per cent of the population, and are related to a number of other southern groups, which are sometimes considered sub-groups of the Éwé. These include the Ouatchi, Mina, Adja and Afro-Brazilians who are descended from returnees to Togo from Brazil, primarily in the 19th century. Many are civil servants, merchants and professionals. They practice Christianity and a traditional religion centred on a creator deity.

Historical context

Éwé trace their origins to the Oyo of Nigeria, some of whom migrated to today's Togo in the 13th century. They accepted such smaller groups as the Mina and Ouatchi that arrived later. Their initial settlements were organized on a local basis, without a strong centre, and the Éwé were susceptible to slave raids into the 19th century. The German occupiers regarded the Éwé as future administrators, and the French administration also used skilled and educated Éwé in the colonial service in Togo and elsewhere in French-controlled Africa. The preferential treatment of Éwé under colonial rule led to resentment in the north, which was much less developed and where fewer opportunities in education and trade were available. Éwé, in turn, were resentful of colonial boundaries that divided them among Togo, Ghana and Benin. During the colonial period many agitated for a common state, while other groups, fearing Éwé dominance, opposed this goal.

After the post-independence rise of Gnassingbé Eyadéma, a Kabyé from the north, Éwé were systematically excluded from political power throughout his decades-long rule. Nevertheless, they retained their prominence in the civil service, and an important role in Togolese trade, especially with Ghana and Benin. Éwé played leading roles in the political opposition to Eyadéma.

Current issues

Éwé remain at the heart of political opposition to Fuare Gnassingbé and the ruling party, and are heavily involved in several opposition parties. The violence that followed the unconstitutional military installation of Faure Gnassingbé as president in Febrauary 2005 pitted the military against the opposition, and thus against many Éwé.

The main Éwé-dominated party, the Union of Foreces for Change (UFC) is led by Gilchrist Olympio, the son of Togo's assassinated first president, Sylvanus Olympio. The UFC refused to participate in the government of national unity formed in 2006, but did participate in the October 2007 parliamentary elections. The party took 27 of the 81 seats in parliament, but complained of voter fraud. Under Faure Gnassingbé, Éwé exclusion from the military remains a problem. The Kabyé-dominated security services were responsible for many of the 2005 abuses. While the Global Political Agreement of August 2006 included plans for military reform and the investigation of the violence in 2005, as of January 2008 neither initiative had been implemented.

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