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Assessment for Ewe in Togo

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Ewe in Togo, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 23 May 2023]
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.
Togo Facts
Area:    56,785 sq. km.
Capital:    Lome
Total Population:    4,410,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

With two large ethnic groups in one state, the potential for rebellion is always present.

Due to the repression, political restrictions, and cohesion and concentration of the Ewe, the potential is even greater. It appears that Togo president Eyadema is not willing to work with the Ewe and will continue to favor the Kabre. If this is the case, the possibility of protests and militant activity will remain high. Future relations between the Ewe and Kabre are not likely to improve without great effort on the part of the government to foster greater tolerance in the society and to promote equality between the groups in the political sphere. With restrictions on the press, and the arrests of political opponents, it does not appear that a commitment to reform and tolerance is there, and as a result both the Ewe and Kabre will be at risk in Togo.

Analytic Summary

The Ewe have been in the Southern area of what is now known as Togo for hundreds of years (TRADITN = 1). The Ewe are found predominantly in this region of the country (REGIONAL = 1), and they are the largest ethnic group in Togo (GROUPCON = 3). The Ewe and the Kabre speak the same language, but they have somewhat different religious beliefs (BELIEF = 2). While they may have different physical characteristics, the two groups are considered to be of the same race.

The first mention of protest by the Ewe is in the late 1940s when Togo was still a colony (PROT45X = 2). In the early 1990s protests reached their peak (PROT90X = 5) which was the only time militant activity was reported (REBEL90X = 2). While there have been continued protest since that point (PROT98 = 3) none has been reported in the past few years (PROT03 = 0 and REB03 = 0).

Until April 1960, Togo, a one-time German colony, had been administered by France as a UN Trust Territory. During the German period, southern Ewes had been designated as German agents and had also benefited from missionary education. When the French succeeded the Germans in Togo, Ewes became administrators for colonial management throughout French Africa. By the time of independence, Ewes played a significant role in the country's civil service and dominated it politically, while northerners suffered economic backwardness, illiteracy, and few educational and social facilities. Yet, the Kabre and other northerners had been recruited for military service under French rule and the Togolese army at independence mostly consisted of ethnic Kabres. Ewes supported Togo's independence government, headed by Sylvanus Olympio, and Ewes emerged victorious across the board in the post-colonial elections. Current President Eyadem, a Kabre, took power by way of a coup in 1967 that resulted in Olympio's death, causing the Kabre to become the dominant group in Togo society, a scenario that remains to the present day. Under the rule of Olympio (1960-1963) and Grunitsky (1963-1967), Ewes formed almost 70% of the cabinets and Kabre 20%. Under Eyadema's military regime (since 1967), however, only 25% of Ewes (half the Ewe proportionate share) comprised the cabinet, while northerners represented over 65% (Kabre alone forming 42%).

Eyademhas consistently repressed pro-democracy movements in Togo, as well as Ewe nationalism. Facing mass protest and rioting, Eyadema finally agreed in 1990 to draft a new constitution intended to place Togo on the path to plural democracy. Beginning with Togo's transition to democracy in 1990, however, tensions between northern Kabre and southern Ewes exploded into political and ethnic violence in which hundreds were killed as of 1999. About 250,000 people (7% of total population) had fled to Ghana and Benin by the end of 1999. Prior to the 1995 presidential elections, Eyadema's soldiers had repeatedly blocked democratic reforms and killed opposition figures. The Togo government also frequently accused infiltrators from Ghana, which hosts both Ewe secessionists and many Togolese exiles, of trying to destabilize Togo. As a result of Eyadema's non-accommodation of the Ewe and his repression of both pro-democracy movements and Ewe nationalism, the Ewe have become an organized, cohesive group (COHESX9 = 5).

There are severe limitations on the freedom of the press within Togo, and this restriction was enhanced with new laws passed in 2000 therefore information on the current situation of the Ewe is difficult to gage. The group does not appear to endure any demographic disadvantages (DEMSTR03 = 0) however. As mentioned, the President has been in power since 1967, and over that time the Ewe have been politically discriminated against (POLDIS03 = 2). Only 25% of Ewes (half the Ewe proportionate share) comprise the cabinet while northerners represented over 65% (Kabre alone forming 42%, almost twice their proportionate share). The military is also comprised mainly of Kabre. While the President has made statements which claim that policies are being implemented to bring the Ewe into the political process, no changes appear to be occurring. As discussed above, there is also a new law severely limiting what the press can report concerning the government. Economically the Ewe appear to be left alone, and do not face any economic discrimination (ECDIS03 = 0). As mentioned the two ethnic groups are geographically separated, and in the south the Ewe are left to handle their own economic affairs. There also does not seem to be any cultural restrictions to speak of. The Kabre appear to be only concerned about keeping the Ewe out of positions of political power, and beyond this have little concern about them. This appears to be reinforced in the government repression that the Ewe face. In 2000 a leader of one of the Ewe sponsored opposition groups was arrested, which was not the first time this had happened to the same leader. There have been no reports of inter-group conflict between Kabre and Ewe (INTERCON03 = 0), but this may also be a case of no violence being reported, or being allowed to be reported in the western media.

The Ewe support the various opposition groups who continue to call for a change in Togo politics. Groups such as UTD (Togolese Union for Democracy), COD-2 (Collective of Democratic Opposition-2), CAR (Comite d'action pour le renouveau), and Forces for Change are all heavily supported by the Ewe and they run candidates for office, mostly in the Ewe-dominated southern area of the country. The Ewe also receive support from separatist groups in Ghana (SEPX = 3) and they rely on groups such as Amnesty International to report government repression that is committed against them, that due to the restrictions on the press would otherwise not be reported. The Ewe's main grievance is with the Kabre dominated Eyadema government. The group wants a change in leadership, and to get that they want greater participation in the government at the state level. The group also wants to have the same rights and access to government agencies as the Kabre. Finally, in the wake of the violence of the early 1990s they want protection from both the Kabre and the Eyadema government.


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