The story of Togo, the German colony gifted to Britain and France

The French-speaking West African nation of Togo was pivotal during the transatlantic slave trade as Portuguese slave traders sought the human merchandise at the small fort of Porto Seguro, in the town currently known as Agbodrafo and lying between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Togo.

During the infamous Scramble for Africa in 1884, Germany took hold of Togo and the current Volta Region of Ghana as a protectorate collectively known as the German Togoland.

German colonial lord carried by locals
This was legalized after Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with the chief of Togoville, King Mlapa III in the same year.

This photograph shows soldiers of the Togo Polizeitruppe with their German commander

The protectorate became Germany’s only self-supporting colony as the locals were forced to work on cotton, cocoa and coffee plantations while paying high taxes. The Germans built the Lome port and a railway that established their rule inland.

Their occupation was short lived after the first world war defeat in 1914. The area was invaded by the British and French and in 1916, Togoland was divided into British and French zones. It was formalized in 1922 with the creation of British Togoland and French Togoland.

British Togoland after the partition
After the World War II, the territories went under the United Nations and the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast prior to independence in 1957.

French Togoland became autonomous within the French Union in 1959 and in 1960, the Togolese Republic was proclaimed. The country held its first presidential election in 1961 making Sylvanus Olympio the first president after he garnered a 100% of the vote in elections boycotted by the opposition.

Sylvanus Olympio
The Republic thereafter went through many transitions including two military coups: in 1963 and in 1967, both led by Sergeant Gnassingbe Eyadema. The second coup overthrew Nicolas Grunitzky, the elected president after the first coup.

Eyadema assumed the seat of president for 38 years until his death. His son, Faure Gnassingbe assumed power till date. The ruling dynasty has been mired by protests from the opposition.

By Ismail Akwei


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