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History & Background

The Republic of Togo is situated in West Africa. It is bounded by Benin (previously Dahomey) in the east, Ghana in the west, Burkina (Burkina Faso, and earlier, Upper Volta) in the north, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south. Togo's landmass is 56,000 square kilometers. It is approximately 600 kilometers in length and about 70 kilometers at its widest point. Its government is constitutionally based on a parliamentary system. In practice, however, it has had a lifetime president in the person of General Gnasimbe Eyadéma, who took power in 1969.

Togo was placed under French administration first as a League of Nations "mandate," then as a United Nations "trust" territory. Up to and through World War I, the country now known as Togo and a sizable eastern segment of what is now Ghana were one entity under German colonial rule. In the transition from a German colony to a French "trust" territory, a significant western portion of German Togoland was ceded to Britain's colonial administration of Ghana. In the process, a major speech community, the Éwé, found themselves partitioned in roughly equal numbers into two different political entities, Ghana and Togo. The percentages are now slightly in favor of the Éwé population in Ghana. Whereas the Togolese government has not fully reconciled itself to the loss of its western territories of German Togoland, it takes no practical steps to exercise its frustrations. The area in question is fully integrated into the Ghanaian industrial and agricultural infrastructure.

Togo's population at independence and up to the late 1970s was between 2 and 3 million. The population is cited, as of 2000, to be between 5 and 7 million. The large disparity in population estimates is due to the difficulty in gathering population statistics, especially in assessing birth and mortality rates. The vast majority of the population lives in the southern third of the country. The capital, Lomé, is in the extreme southwestern corner adjacent to Ghana and actually spills over into that country. This portion is known as Aflao. The southern third also includes the best educational, industrial, infrastructural, medical, and economic facilities available in the country. Hence there is a strong southern migration by central and northern inhabitants. The Éwé speech community predominates in this all-important southern third.

The term "speech community" is preferred here because there are a large number of clusters of groups within which several ethnic groups distinguish themselves on historical and social grounds but who speak mutually intelligible languages. The significant four in terms of numbers and political dynamism are the Éwé cluster (45 percent of the population), the Kabiyê cluster (22 percent), the Moba cluster (10 percent), and the Tem, often called Kotokoli and sometimes spelled Cotocoli, (7 percent). The Éwé cluster belongs to the Kwa subfamily of languages within the broad Niger-Congo family of sub-Saharan Africa. The Kwa subfamily covers the languages from southeastern Nigeria, including Ibo, all the way west along the coast to the Akan languages of Ghana. The other three language clusters, or "speech communities," belong to the Gur (also known as Voltaic) family of languages within Niger-Congo. The Gur subfamily is primarily spoken in the Sahel region of West Africa, including the northern segments of Togo and Ghana, and much of Burkina, and Mali.

In geographic terms, the four main clusters from south to north are as follows. The Éwé occupy the southern third of the country. The Tem occupy the central section just north of the Éw. The Kabiyê occupy the northwest section to the northwest of the Tem bordering on Benin. The Moba occupy the northernmost section of the country bordering on Burkina. However, Togo's ethnolinguistic map is more complicated than these four neat clusters might suggest. There are approximately 30 ethnolinguistic groups that form part of the clusters mentioned above as well as outside those clusters.

Several communities grouped within large clusters would prefer to be listed separately. The most prominent among them are the Mina in the southeastern corner of the country around the city of Aneho, sometimes spelled Anecho. The Mina, along with many among the Fon speech community on the Benin side of the border, are descendants of Afro-Brazilian returnees in the 1800s. The Mina, particularly, insist on calling their language Mina, not Éwé. Yet lexically and structurally it is a variant, a marginally distinct dialect, of Éwé. The same is mostly true of Fon. Fon, however, is slightly more distinct. Political ambition, economic status, and a consciousness of their Brazilian heritage motivate the Mina position. It is interesting to note that members of their community held leadership positions in the immediate aftermath of independence until overthrown by General Eyadéma in 1969. The conflict between the Eyadéma government and the families and descendants of the pre-Eyadéma leadership continues, muted most of the time, but with frequent and vehement public discourse.

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceTogo - History Background, Educational System—overview, Summary