Togo Geopolitics and Ethnology
The political parable of Togo, from independence from France in 1960 to the present day, is analogous to most of the West African countries that experienced the decolonization process in those years. Togo, after having assumed a democratic constitutional structure – based on a presidential political system – has fallen into a dictatorial regime of a military nature, based on the power of a single party. The reference is to the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (Rpt), a party led by Colonel Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who held the position of president of the republic from 1967 to 2005, the year of his death. During its authoritarian rule, undermined by several coup attempts and popular uprisings, the country has known progressive democratic concessions, however, it turned out to be only a facade. An important moment in Togo’s history was the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, which introduced a multi-party political system and universal suffrage elections every five years. The opposition, however, boycotted all legislative elections until 2007. Since 1993, the authoritarian and repressive policy adopted by the president has also met with firm opposition from the US and the European Union, which have interrupted diplomatic relations with Togo. and direct aids suspended. Faure Gnassingbé, appointed to the presidency on the death of his father Étienne, has slowly set up a policy of returning to democracy and transparency, albeit overshadowed by accusations of selling arms to Angolan rebels in exchange for diamonds. The certification, on the part of international observers, the fairness of the elections held in 2007 and 2010 (in which Faure Gnassingbé was reconfirmed), restored the confidence of the international community and the support of financial institutions to Togo. According to indexdotcom, in December 2010, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank decided to gradually cancel 80% of the national public debt. However, some elements of instability could arise within civil society, as demonstrated by the riots that took place in August 2012 by the opposition groups of the Collectif Sauvons le Togo (Cst), which calls for a reform of the electoral law and greater alternation in power. The protests, severely suppressed by the police, led to the fall of the government and the postponement of parliamentary elections twice during 2012. The vote then went on 25 July 2013: the government coalition of Union Pour la République (Unir) emerged as the winner. At the regional level, Togo plays a leading political role within the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), especially since relations with Ghana and Burkina Faso were recovered, tense due to ethnic rivalries up to the first mid-2000s. Lomé participates in the most delicate international operations of peacekeeping, such as that in Mali where there is a contingent of more than 900 soldiers. The Togolese economic structure is still backward. The reforms aim at the development of some key sectors of the country, first of all the energy sector, in order to depend less and less on wood. In 2010, a project for a hydroelectric plant was launched and an agreement was signed with the Italian company Eni for the exploration of the seabed which is estimated to contain large oil reserves.
Ethnology. – The indigenous population is made up mainly of Negroes (Sudanese) and a minority of representatives of Hamitic races (Fulbè and Haussa). With the Mohammedan Haussa, spread throughout Togo, where they trade, we are faced with a markedly mixed population. The nomadic Fulbè occupy the northern regions of Togo. Of the numerous Negro tribes, the most important are the Ewe (coastal populations from Volta to Dahomey) and the Ascianti (central western Togo and Costa d’Oro); the Guang, the Tim, the Dagomba, the Mosri, the Gurma and the Yoruba also form important groups. Archaic characters have preserved the numerous small tribes found in central and southern Togo, e.g., the Adele, Akpafu, Akposso, Awatime, etc.
Most of the indigenous population lives on the products of agriculture with the hoe; cattle breeding is also practiced in northern Togo. Primitive farmers favor small villages; the population devoted to trade and crafts gather in populous cities. Round clay huts, rectangular with sloping roofs on the coast, beehive huts of the Fulbè nomads of the north, fortresses with moats and clay walls, the height of a level of the Caburi and Tamberma of northern Togo are witnesses of the variety of existing cultures. Preferred materials are wood and clay (we can even speak of a real architecture of clay), which also find application in the preparation of domestic furnishings (clay risers for sleeping, wooden chairs for the garments, wood carving, various hearth systems, etc.). The art of vasaria, practiced by women, has reached a high degree of perfection; equally perfect are the clay figures of fetishes and the wooden carvings, to which men are dedicated, especially from the Volta region. The fabrics woven on vertical or handle half looms, or on horizontal pedal looms are used to make large garments (tobi) of cotton or wool; the famous leather works of the Haussa do not fear comparison with those of the Mandingo. Metalworking is particularly developed in Middle Togo. Famous is the gold and silver jewelery of the coastal area. Among the musical instruments we should mention the different varieties of wood, leather and clay drums, instruments similar to lyres and harps and pumpkin tree frogs. Sometimes the drums are adorned with human skulls and bones, a use inspired by pre-animistic and hand-held concepts. The overlapping of various cultural layers is also revealed in social forms: undoubtedly the totemist organizations, generally formed by patriarchal and exogamous families, which are found among small tribes but also among the Ewe, the Asciants, undoubtedly date back to high antiquity. the Mossi, the Fulbè and the Haussa. However, predominantly matriarchal organizations still exist in some places, such as among the Ewe and the Asciants, whose history allows us to trace the foundation of powerful empires of a considerable degree of civilization. The religion of the black populations of Togo is a mosaic of pre-animist magical beliefs, animist and manist representations, to which is added the belief in various heavenly, earthly and personal protective deities. All these deities are sacrificed animals and products of the fields. At one time human sacrifices were also performed (Ascianti). Magical oracles and judgments of God (with poison) are the order of the day in Togo. Worship of animals, especially snakes, is also widespread. Remarkable is the belief in the rebirth of the soul of the ancestors, which could be found among the Mossi.