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Gnassingbé Eyadéma

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Gnassingbé Eyadéma
Eyadéma in 1983
3rd President of Togo
In office
14 April 1967 – 5 February 2005
Prime MinisterJoseph Kokou Koffigoh
Edem Kodjo
Kwassi Klutse
Eugene Koffi Adoboli
Agbéyomé Kodjo
Koffi Sama
Preceded byKléber Dadjo
Succeeded byFaure Gnassingbé
Chairperson of ECOWAS
In office
9 November 1975 – 1 June 1978
Preceded byYakubu Gowon
Succeeded byOlusegun Obasanjo
In office
3 June 1980 – 2 April 1981
Preceded byLéopold Sédar Senghor
Succeeded bySiaka Stevens
In office
7 July 1999 – 8 September 1999
Preceded byAbdulsalami Abubakar
Succeeded byAlpha Oumar Konaré
Personal details
Born(1935-12-26)26 December 1935
Pya, French Togoland
Died5 February 2005(2005-02-05) (aged 69)
near Tunis, Tunisia
Political partyRally of the Togolese People
SpouseVéronique Massan[1]
ChildrenFaure Gnassingbé
Kpatcha Gnassingbé
Military service
Branch/serviceTogolese Armed Forces
Years of service1958-1987
Rank Général de division

Gnassingbé Eyadéma (French pronunciation: [ɲasɛ̃ɡbe ɛjadema]; born Étienne Eyadéma Gnassingbé, 26 December 1935 – 5 February 2005) was a Togolese military officer and politician who was the president of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005, after which he was immediately succeeded by his son, Faure Gnassingbé.[2]

Eyadéma participated in two successful military coups, in January 1963 and January 1967, and became president on 14 April 1967. As president, he created a political party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), and headed an anti-communist[3] single-party regime until the early 1990s, when reforms leading to multiparty elections began. Although his rule was seriously challenged by the events of the early 1990s, he ultimately consolidated power again and won multiparty presidential elections in 1993, 1998 and 2003; the opposition boycotted the 1993 election and denounced the 1998 and 2003 election results as fraudulent. At the time of his death, Eyadéma was the longest-serving ruler in Africa.[4]

According to a 2018 study, "Gnassingbé Eyadema's rule rested on repression, patronage, and a bizarre leadership cult."[5]

Early life and military career


Usually Eyadéma is said to have been born on 26 December 1935 in the northern quartiers of Pya,[6] a village in the prefecture of Kozah in the Kara Region, to a peasant family of the Kabye ethnic group. But this date has been disputed. According to Comi M. Toulabor, Eyadéma's official date of birth is "based on a fertile imagination" and it would be more accurate to say that he was born around 1930.[7] His mother was later known as Maman N'Danida, or Maman N'Danidaha.[citation needed]

In 1953, Eyadéma joined the French Army after completing primary school.[8] He participated in the French Indochina War and the Algerian War.

Following nearly 10 years in the French army, Eyadéma returned to Togo in 1962. He was a leader in the 1963 Togolese coup d'état against President Sylvanus Olympio, who was assassinated during the attack; it has often been stated that Eyadéma himself committed the murder.[9] On this occasion he helped establish Nicolas Grunitzky as the nation's new president.

Four years on, Eyadéma, having fallen out with Grunitzky, led a second military coup against the latter. This time there was no bloodshed (the deposed Grunitzky managed to escape to exile in Paris) and Eyadéma installed himself as president on 14 April 1967, in addition to awarding himself the post of Defence Minister. He held both offices for almost 38 years.



According to Comi M Toulabor (researcher at the Centre d’études d’Afrique noire), "Eyadema had been a personal friend of the French president, Jacques Chirac. He had remained in power for 38 years thanks to a couple of coups, systematic electoral fraud, the faithful allegiance of an army packed with supporters and members of his Kabye ethnic group, solid foreign support (especially from France), and adroit management of access to Togo’s meagre economic resources."[10] Three years after taking power, Eyadéma created the Rally of the Togolese People as the country's only legal party. He won an uncontested election in 1972. In 1979, the country adopted a new constitution that returned the country (at least nominally) to civilian rule. The RPT was entrenched as the only party; the president of the party was automatically nominated for a seven-year term as president upon election to the party presidency and confirmed in office via an unopposed referendum. Under these provisions, Eyadéma was re-elected unopposed in 1979 and 1986. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts; in 1974 he survived a plane crash in the northern part of the country near Sarakawa. After another unsuccessful assassination attempt by a bodyguard, he carried the bullet removed by the surgeon as an amulet.

Eyadema in Lomé, 1975.

A national conference was held in August 1991, electing Joseph Kokou Koffigoh as Prime Minister and leaving Eyadéma as merely a ceremonial president. Although Eyadéma attempted to suspend the conference, surrounding the venue with soldiers, he subsequently accepted the outcome.[11] Despite this, Eyadéma managed to remain in power with the backing of the army. In March 1993, an unsuccessful attack was made on the Tokoin military camp, where Eyadéma was living; several people were killed in the attack, including Eyadéma's personal chief of staff, General Mawulikplimi Ameji.[12] He attempted to legitimize his rule with a multiparty presidential election in August 1993, which was boycotted by the opposition; facing only two minor challengers, he won 96.42% of the vote, although turnout was reportedly low outside of his native Kara Region.[13] Eyadéma officially won re-election in the June 1998 presidential election, defeating Gilchrist Olympio of the Union of the Forces of Change (UFC) with 52.13% of the vote according to official results,[14] amid allegations of fraud and accusations of the massacre of hundreds of government opponents. The European Union suspended aid in 1993 in protest of alleged voting irregularities and human rights violations.

In late December 2002, the Constitution was changed to remove term limits on the office of president. Previously, presidents had been limited to two five-year terms, and Eyadéma would have therefore been forced to step down after the 2003 election. With the removal of these limitations, however, Eyadéma was free to stand again and did so, winning the election on 1 June with 57.78% of the vote. He was sworn in for another term on 20 June.[15] Another constitutional change was to reduce the minimum age of the president to 35 years, rather than 45. As Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé was 35, many observers assumed that he was opening the way for a dynastic succession should he die suddenly.[citation needed]

Eyadéma with President of the United States Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden of the White House during a state visit in 1983.

Eyadéma constructed a large palace near his family home in Pya a few kilometers north of Lama-Kara. He was the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity from 2000 to 2001, and he attempted, unsuccessfully, to mediate between the government and rebels of Ivory Coast in the First Ivorian Civil War, that began in that country in 2002.[16]

Former Arizona State Senator Billy Davis meeting with President Eyadéma in Lomé, 1993.

The European Union sent a mission on 1 June 2004, to evaluate the state of democracy in Togo and to start a procedure of democratization of Togo. The expedition intended to open a dialogue between the state and the opposition. The team was supposed to meet with many politicians from other parties than Eyadéma's party, Rally of the Togolese People. But because of the criteria imposed by the government, politicians such as Gilchrist Olympio, Yawovi Agboyibo, and Professor Leopold Gnininvi boycotted the meeting. The European Union team cancelled the meeting since discussions with the government were almost impossible. The opposition party UFC wanted the release of 11 men held by the government. Finally, the European Union experts met each political figure individually and in private. The respect of human rights and of the press in Togo were to be investigated by the European Union experts.[17]

According to BBC News, Eyadéma claimed that democracy in Africa "moves along at its own pace and in its own way."[4]

Personality cult

Monument to the 1974 Togo plane crash, which Eyadéma survived.

Eyadéma had an extensive personality cult, including an entourage of 1,000 dancing women who sang and danced in praise of him; portraits which adorned most stores; a bronze statue in the capital city, Lomé; wristwatches with his portrait, which disappeared and re-appeared every fifteen seconds; and a comic book that depicted him as a superhero with powers of invulnerability and super strength.[18] In addition, the date of a failed attempt on President Eyadéma's life was annually commemorated as "the Feast of Victory Over Forces of Evil."[19] Eyadéma even changed his first name from Étienne to Gnassingbé to note the date of the 1974 plane crash of which he was claimed to be the only survivor.[20]

In reality, Eyadéma was not the sole survivor of the crash on 24 January 1974.[21][22] There were other survivors, but he deliberately misrepresented the details of the accident to make himself look like a hero with superhuman strength who miraculously survived the disaster when everyone else was killed.[23][24] Eyadéma claimed that the crash was not an accident and was in fact a conspiracy to kill him, plotted by imperialists who did not like his plan (announced on 10 January 1974) to nationalize the important phosphate mining company, the Compagnie Togolaise des Mines du Bénin (CTMB or Cotomib).[25][26] His C-47 was replaced by a new presidential jet, Gulfstream II, which was again damaged beyond repair in a fatal accident in the same year.[27] Eyadéma was not on board at the time.



On 5 February 2005, Eyadéma died on board a plane 250 kilometres (160 mi) south of Tunis, Tunisia.[28][29][30] He died "as he was being evacuated for emergency treatment abroad", according to a government statement. Officials have stated that the cause of death was a heart attack. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving head of state in Africa.[4]

Zakari Nandja, chief of the Togolese army, pronounced Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé as the new president of Togo. Alpha Oumar Konaré, president of the Commission of the African Union, immediately declared this act to be a military coup d'état and against the constitution. Other organizations, such as the International Community and ECOWAS, also did not approve the designation of Faure Gnassingbé as president.[31] Under heavy pressure from ECOWAS and the international community, Faure Gnassingbé stepped down on 25 February and was replaced by Bonfoh Abass, the first deputy parliament speaker, until after the presidential elections on 24 April 2005, when Faure Gnassingbé was elected president with 60% of the vote.[32]

Eyadéma's funeral was held on 13 March 2005, in the presence of a number of presidents and other international dignitaries; Presidents Mathieu Kérékou of Benin, John Kufuor of Ghana, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, Mamadou Tandja of Niger and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria attended the ceremony. On 15 March, Eyadema's family and the RPT party paid him a final homage in his hometown of Pya.[33]

Awards and decorations


See also



  1. ^ https://sylviocombey.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/deces-d%E2%80%99une-femme-de-feu-gnassingbe-eyadema/ († 2010)Archived 30 September 2022 at the Wayback Machine [user-generated source]
  2. ^ Nabourema, Farida (6 October 2020). "In Togo, There Is Nowhere to Hide". New York TImes.
  3. ^ John R. Heilbrunn, "Togo: The National Conference and Stalled Reform" in Political Reform in Francophone Africa (1997), ed. John F. Clark and David E. Gardinier, page 225
  4. ^ a b c "Obituary: Gnassingbe Eyadema" Archived 3 November 2019 at the Wayback Machine. (5 February 2005). BBC News. Retrieved 22 May 2007.
  5. ^ Osei, Anja (2018). "Like father, like son? Power and influence across two Gnassingbé presidencies in Togo". Democratization. 25 (8): 1460–1480. doi:10.1080/13510347.2018.1483916. S2CID 149724978. Archived from the original on 26 June 2022. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  6. ^ An Ethnography of a Vodu Shrine in Southern Togo: Of Spirit, Slave and Sea. BRILL. 13 February 2017. p. 71. ISBN 978-9-004-34125-8.
  7. ^ Toulabor, Comi M (19 January 1999). "EYADÉMA GNASSINGBÉ". Encyclopædia Universalis (in French). Encyclopædia Universalis S.A. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  8. ^ Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. 2 February 2012. pp. 474–475. ISBN 978-0-195-38207-5.
  9. ^ "Gnassingbe Eyadema" Archived 8 May 2019 at the Wayback Machine. (6 February 2005). The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Togo: Disputed succession". Le Monde Diplomatique. April 2005.
  11. ^ "Togo's President Agrees to Yield Power to a Rival", The New York Times, 29 August 1991.
  12. ^ "Mar 1993 – Attack on presidential residence", Keesing's Record of World Events, Vol. 39, March 1993 Togo, p. 39353.
  13. ^ "Démocratisation à la Togolaise" Archived 17 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine ("Chronologie"), Tètè Tété, 1998 (diastode.org) (in French).
  14. ^ "Consideration of Reports by States Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant: Addendum Togo" Archived 5 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, United Nations International covenant on civil and political rights, CCPR/C/TGO/2001/3, 5 July 2001.
  15. ^ "Le Président Eyadema a prêté serment" Archived 30 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, UPF (presse-francophone.org), 20 June 2003 (in French).
  16. ^ "Delegates to try and untangle Ivory Coast conflict". The Mail & Guardian. 1 January 2002. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
  17. ^ "RFI – Togo – La démocratie évaluée". www1.rfi.fr. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  18. ^ David Lamb, The Africans, p. 48
  19. ^ Dr. F. Jeffress Ramsay, Global Studies Africa: Seventh Edition, p. 63
  20. ^ Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Worldmark Press. 1984. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  21. ^ "Le Togo s'est recueilli pour la 35ème fois" (in French). Présidence du Togo. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2012. Le Pasteur François Roux, l'un des rescapés du Crash, invité pour la circonstance, a fait un témoignage émouvant sur cet événement.
  22. ^ "Le Togo s'est remémoré Sarakawa 1974" (in French). Présidence du Togo. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2012. Le jeudi 24 janvier 1974, le DC-3 des Forces Armées Togolaises s'écrase à Sarakawa faisant 4 martyrs, des blessés parmi lesquels, feu Général Gnassingbé Eyadema.
  23. ^ Marthe Fare (17 February 2012). "Togo : F. Gnassingbé s'attaque à l'héritage paternel" (in French). TV5Monde. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012. On le fait passer pour le seul survivant de l'accident, d'où le mythe de son invincibilité et l'expression " le miraculé " de Sarakawa.
  24. ^ Me Siméon Kwami Occansey (4 February 2004). "Retour sur la fable de " L'attentat " de Sarakawa" (in French). Union of Forces for Change. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  25. ^ Morten Hagen and Michelle Spearing (28 November 2000). "Togo: Stalled Democratic Transition". Diastode. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  26. ^ "Les " Trois Glorieuses "" (in French). République Togolaise. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  27. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Gulfstream Aerospace G-1159 Gulfstream II 5V-TAA Lome Airport (LFW)". Flight Safety Foundation. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  28. ^ "Publication de la liste des candidats à l'élection présidentielle du 1er juin 2003" (PDF). Journal Officiel de la République Togolaise (in French). Cabinet du Président de la République. 10 May 2003. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  29. ^ "Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 69, Togo Ruler, Dies". The New York Times. 7 February 2005. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  30. ^ "Togolese president Eyadema dies". BBC. 6 February 2005. Archived from the original on 26 August 2020. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  31. ^ Elraz, Khaled (5 February 2005). ""Papa Eyadéma" est mort". Afrik.com (in French). Archived from the original on 12 November 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  32. ^ "AU denounces Togo 'military coup'". 6 February 2005. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  33. ^ Bailly, Hélène (14 March 2005). "Le Togo fait ses adieux à Étienne Eyadéma Gnassingbé". Afrik.com (in French). Archived from the original on 4 October 2022. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Portrait du président de la république togolaise Gnassingbé Eyadema, circa 1970. (Photo by Erling MANDELMANN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)". Getty Images. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  35. ^ Deutschländer, Christian; Walter, Dirk (29 December 2014). "Bayerischer Verdienstorden: Wer ihn zurückbrachte". Merkur.de. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  36. ^ British Broadcasting Corporation. Monitoring Service (September 1974). "Summary of World Broadcasts: Far East, Part 3". Monitoring Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  37. ^ Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik. p. 638.
Political offices
Preceded by President of Togo
Succeeded by
New title Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairperson of the African Union
Succeeded by