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Assessment for Kabre in Togo

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Kabre 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

As the dominant group, the Kabre are unlikely to become involved in militant or non-militant protests against the government. They are over-represented in most areas of the government, and they are currently not in any immediate threat by the Ewe. The risk of a coup is always present in Togo, as in all military regimes. If the day comes when the Ewe overthrow Eyadema, or if he loses power in another way, then the Kabre would find their place in Togolese society altered, and they would likely react with protests and some form of militant activity.

Analytic Summary

The Kabre (also known as Kabye or Kabrai) have been in the area now known as Togo for hundreds of years (TRADITN = 1). They are mostly found in the northern half of the country (REGIONAL = 1), though some have migrated to the south (GROUPCON = 2). They are communal contenders for power in Togo with the Ewe of the south. They speak the same language as the Ewe (LANG = 1), and the only real difference between the two groups is that some have somewhat different religious beliefs (BELIEF = 2).

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%). Since power and access to it in relies on which ethnic group one belongs to in Togo, the Kabre are very organized and cohesive (COHESX9 = 5).

Eyademhas 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.

There is little information available on Togo and its ethnic groups via the western media. In 2000, the Eyadema government instituted a more repressive ban on negative press against the government. Regardless of the media ban, there does not appear to be any demographic disadvantages plaguing the Kabre (DEMSTR00 = 0). As the dominant group, the Kabre are well represented in government positions (they currently occupy more than twice their proportional share), and they dominate the civil service and armed forces (POLDIS03 = 0). Economically, the Kabre and Ewe seem to keep their distance. With the Kabre located mostly in the north, they do not compete with the Ewe in most sectors of the economy. No discrimination was found (ECDIS03 = 0). After over 30 years as the dominant group in Togolese society, it is not surprising that there are no cultural restrictions against the Kabre. In addition, no reports of government-instigated repressive action targeting the Kabre were found. As noted earlier, during the early 1990s, an increase in violent conflict between the two ethnic groups lead to hundreds of deaths and large numbers of refugees (COMCON91 - COMCON94 = 5). However, there have not been any reports of conflict recently (INTERCON03 = 0), though this could be a function of the repression of media discussed above.

The Kabre largely support the party of Eyadema, the Rally of the Togolese People. Although this party has supposedly been disbanded, it still operates and exerts a large degree of power. With Eyadema in power, the Kabre are well taken care of, and their only demand is to be protected from the Ewe to facilitate the maintenance of their place in Togolese society.

The Kabre have never been reported to engage in protests (PROT03= 0). They were involved in militant activity during the 1960s coup that brought Eyadema to power (REBEL60X = 1). In 1991, there were also reports of militant Kabre activity as violence erupted between Ewes and Kabres (REB91 = 3). With the end of this violence, militant Kabre activity has ended as well (REB03 = 0).


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