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Spotlight on Togoland: a regional perspective!

‘Spotlight’ is a new section on our website where the focus of attention is on a specific region or theme within our area of interest. On the occasion of this first Spotlight, the focus was on Togoland, mainly regarding the current developments which could potentially pose a risk to regional stability.

During WWI, Britain and France occupied the German Protectorate of Togoland which, under the League of Nations mandate, was eventually divided in two; the British part was to become part of the Gold Coast colony, while the French part remained administratively distinct from Dahomey (now Benin).

Later, in 1946, both territories were recognised differently under one of the United Nation Trusteeship Council’s Agreements. However in 1956, the plebiscite which was held to decide whether both parts of Togoland should integrate into, or secede from, the Gold Coast, finished with the result that 58% of the population backed a union with the Gold Coast (although of note, the French part of Togoland voted in favor of being an autonomous republic). In 1957, the Gold Coast changed its name to Ghana when it became the first sub-Saharan country to become independent.

Since then, there have been persistent calls for a reunification of Togoland, especially among the Ewe people of Ghana, and in 1972 the “National Liberation Movement of Togoland”, dominated by the Ewe Tribal Group, started a separatist campaign. Jump forward to May 09, 2017, and we see the Homeland Study Group Foundation (HSGF) try to declare a symbolic independence of Western Togoland, stating that “the vote for plebiscite was marred with difficulties, briberies, violence, …” and that “the Western Togolanders have never been fully integrated into Ghanaian society”. In 2017, the HSGF became a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

In the latest developments, secessionists from the Western Togoland Restoration Front (WTRF) attacked a number of police stations on 25 September, 2020, injuring several police officers, seizing vehicles and weapons, and blocking roads in the Volta Region. Declaring unilateral independence, they issued a press statement saying that Western Togolanders, under the leadership of Togbe Yesu Kwabla Edudzi, will maintain the roadblocks until “Ghana agrees to come to the negotiation table, with expected UN facilitation.” The Volta Región House of Chiefs condemned the acts of aggression by WTRF, and the Ghana government dismissed the issue as a police matter, declaring that “no legal basis exists for their claims”.

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